Surgical smoke and infection control

J Hosp Infect. 2006 Jan;62(1):1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2005.01.014. Epub 2005 Jul 5.


Gaseous byproducts produced during electrocautery, laser surgery or the use of ultrasonic scalpels are usually referred to as 'surgical smoke'. This smoke, produced with or without a heating process, contains bio-aerosols with viable and non-viable cellular material that subsequently poses a risk of infection (human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus, human papillomavirus) and causes irritation to the lungs leading to acute and chronic inflammatory changes. Furthermore, cytotoxic, genotoxic and mutagenic effects have been demonstrated. The American Occupational Safety and Health Administration have estimated that 500000 workers are exposed to laser and electrosurgical smoke each year. The use of standard surgical masks alone does not provide adequate protection from surgical smoke. While higher quality filter masks and/or double masking may increase the filtration capability, a smoke evacuation device or filter placed near (2-5 cm) the electrocautery blade or on endoscope valves offers additional (and necessary) safety for operating personnel and patients.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Electrocoagulation / adverse effects*
  • Filtration / instrumentation
  • Filtration / methods
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Infection Control / standards
  • Laser Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Mice
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Smoke / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Smoke