Surgical smoke and the dermatologist

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 Sep;65(3):636-641. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2010.11.017. Epub 2011 May 7.


Background: The use of electrosurgery and lasers by dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons has increased in recent years with the growth of technology and procedures performed. These devices produce surgical smoke that has been demonstrated to harbor live viruses and bacteria in addition to hazardous chemicals.

Objective: We sought to review the literature on surgical smoke, its effects on those exposed, and measures that may be used to protect dermatologists and their staff.

Methods: We conducted a review of the literature on surgical smoke during the last 25 years.

Results: The studies reviewed indicate the potential for infection, carcinogenesis, and pulmonary damage as a result of exposure to surgical plume.

Limitations: There is no inclusion of literature and subsequent findings published greater than 25 years prior.

Conclusions: It is evident from our review that surgical smoke poses potential health risks to dermatologists who perform procedures using electrocautery and lasers. We recommend diligent use of high-filtration masks in addition to smoke evacuation systems to dermatologists performing laser surgery and using electrocautery. Furthermore, we advocate investigation into quantifying the exposure of dermatologists to surgical smoke in the outpatient setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures*
  • Dermatology*
  • Electrosurgery*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Lung Diseases / etiology
  • Mutagens / analysis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Smoke / analysis


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Mutagens
  • Smoke