The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) has announced the “Go Clear” campaign, a three-year national health education effort to help surgical team members and hospital administrators reduce and eliminate surgical smoke in operating rooms. Surgical smoke, also known as plume, can be a byproduct of electrosurgical and laser devices which are used in over 85 percent of 24 million procedures performed annually.

The campaign is sponsored by Medtronic through the AORN Foundation.

The need to evacuate and appropriately filter surgical smoke is being recognized around the world as countries move to provide a safer environment for both perioperative personnel and patients. Using an electrosurgery device on one gram of tissue is akin to inhaling the smoke from 6 unfiltered cigarettes in 15 minutes. While the long-term effects for health care workers exposed to surgical smoke is still unknown, there is an extended list of short-term effects. For example, perioperative nurses experience twice the incidence of many respiratory problems as compared to the general population.

“We created the Go Clear Award program to give surgical team members and administrators the tools they need to establish and maintain a safe surgical setting,” said Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN, Executive Director/CEO, AORN. “At this time, there is very little awareness about smoke hazards and there is too little consistency in safe practices. We need to turn that around.”

AORN’s evidence-based Guidelines for Perioperative Practice recommend “potential hazards associated with surgical smoke generated in the practice setting should be identified, and safe practices established.” There are currently no specific OSHA standards for laser/electrosurgery plume hazards but the agency recommends employers be aware of this emerging problem and advise employees of the hazards of laser smoke. According to OSHA law, all workers have a right to a safe workplace and the law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces.