By: 6 December 2021
Is surgical smoke plume the most overlooked hazard in operating theatres? New nationwide survey launched by AfPP

The Association for Perioperative Practice (AfPP) has launched an anonymous survey in a bid to better understand the health risks associated with exposure to surgical smoke plume, and the policies currently in place to minimise these risks within UK operating theatres.

Lindsay Keeley, Patient Safety and Quality Lead at AfPP, explained: “All healthcare professionals working in the perioperative environment are exposed to surgical plume. As an association, we feel this is one of the most overlooked hazards in the operating theatre. Inhalation of surgical plume caused by energy-based device emissions can adversely affect the respiratory systems of theatre staff, patients and visitors.

“We have been campaigning to raise awareness of the risks associated with surgical smoke plume for years. We’ve created and distributed safety information resources, spoken at conferences, started petitions and recently collaborated with the USA-based International Council on Surgical Plume (ICSP) to form the Surgical Plume Alliance.

“Despite this work – and studies identifying toxins, carcinogens, blood borne pathogens, prions, viable cells, viruses and bacteria in surgical smoke plume – we still regularly hear anecdotal evidence that hospitals aren’t using surgical smoke plume evacuation units or appropriate PPE.”

The charity believes that by gathering first-hand data from those working in the theatre environment, they can further their efforts to get evacuation devices mandated in all operating theatres and procedural rooms across the NHS and independent sector.

Dawn Stott, CEO at AfPP, added: “Preliminary results from a sample of our survey responses so far demonstrate the scale of the issue surrounding surgical smoke plume. 94% are concerned about risks to their health, 39% have not received any training on the hazards associated with exposure and only 17% can confirm that there is a local policy for surgical plume management within their organisation.

“AfPP exist to progress safer surgery, patient and staff safety is at the heart of everything we do. We will be using the full results of this survey to push for change. The exact nature of that change will be based on what our members and the wider perioperative community tell us they need – from educational resources and training to lobbying for nationwide policy changes.”

Everyone working in operating theatres, in any capacity, is invited to complete the anonymous online survey here by 31 December 2021.

AfPP is committed to raising awareness regarding the effects of exposure to surgical smoke plume and supporting operating theatre departments to minimise risks and protect their theatre team.


Image: Lindsay Keeley and Penny Smalley, from the Surgical Plume Alliance, launching the survey at the OneTogether Conference in Birmingham