Eliminating Surgical Smoke from European Operating Rooms

Surgical smoke, also known as diathermy plume, occurs during surgery and is produced by using surgical devices such as lasers, electrosurgical units, ultrasonic units, cautery units, and high-speed drills and burrs used to cut and dissect tissue.

Health Risks

Surgical smoke can cause irritation to the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin and has been linked to diseases including occupational asthma and chronic pulmonary conditions. A day in the operating room equates to smoking 27-30 unfiltered cigarettes, leading to health problems listed above and consequently absences from work, staff shortages, high turnover and additional costs for healthcare systems.


Raising awareness

The Surgical Smoke Coalition (SSC) aims to minimise the risk of harm from exposure to surgical smoke, in particular with regard to healthcare professionals working in ORs. They aim to raise awareness levels and understanding around surgical smoke-related risks, while calling for employer-driven measures, such as evacuation systems, that remove surgical smoke as close as possible to the source.


Technical Solutions

SSC state that technological solutions are needed to keep surgical smoke exposure low. The installation of source evacuation systems is essential to tackle surgical smoke in ORs, especially through the use of handpieces with integrated suction or by using a separate local extraction. With proper filtration systems, the plumes are sucked directly at the source, capturing relevant carcinogens and guaranteeing the highest level of protection for healthcare professionals and patients.

SSC Policy-Overview Report

In June 2022, the SSC published a policy-overview report to raise awareness of surgical smoke, and highlights its impact as an occupational hazard which critically needs to be addressed to guarantee the safety of all operating room staff and patients. This report is available in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

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Surgical Smoke Coalition
  • Formaldehyde
  • Benzene
  • Hospital workers
Sector / branche
  • Human health and social work activities
Solution types
  • 2. T – Technical measurements
  • 3. O – Organizational measurements