OR teams work to save patients while putting themselves in danger of surgical smoke inhalation

December 17, 2019

Surgical smoke is an ongoing danger in operating rooms across the country. A long-time orthopedic surgeon in Arizona told AZ family the story of how this dangerous smoke nearly cost him his life. Dr. Anthony Hedley had been a practicing orthopedic surgeon for 40 years when he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable and 100% fatal condition where the tissue in his lungs thickened, making it difficult for him to breathe and circulate oxygen throughout his body. Dr. Hedley was fortunate to receive a life-saving double lung transplant and dedicated his life to researching the cause of his condition. 

He discovered that surgical smoke, or bovie smoke, during surgery was the likely cause. According to the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses, 500,000 healthcare providers are exposed to this smoke annually and the daily impact on an OR team is the equivalent of up to 30 cigarettes per day. Action is being taken to reduce and eliminate the harmful effects surgical smoke has on operating room staff. Some states such as Rhode Island and Colorado have taken action, passing laws requiring hospitals to manage surgical smoke through evacuation systems and there are now many tools equipped to eliminate surgical smoke and protect the OR team.