to main content The Joint Commission releases Quick Safety on alleviating dangers of surgical smoke | The Joint Commission

The Joint Commission releases Quick Safety on alleviating dangers of surgical smoke

Wednesday, December 16 2020

Media Contact: 
Maureen Lyons 
Corporate Communications  
(630) 792-5171 

(OAKBROOK TERRACE, Illinois, Dec. 16, 2020) – Whenever and wherever lasers, electrosurgical systems, radio frequency devices, hyfrecators, ultrasonic scalpels, power tools and other heat destructive devices are used, everyone in the area – including the patient – may be exposed to surgical smoke. Surgical smoke plume can contain toxic gases and vapors such as benzene, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, bioaerosols, dead and live cellular material (including blood fragments) and viruses. 

A new Quick Safety advisory from The Joint Commission, “Alleviating the dangers of surgical smoke,” reviews current regulations, recommendations and standards on surgical smoke or lasers from several governmental and professional organizations, including from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and ECRI. 

The advisory also includes several safety actions for health care organizations that conduct surgery and other procedures using lasers and other devices that produce surgical smoke. Recommended safety actions to protect patients and health care workers include:

  • Implementing standard procedures for the removal of surgical smoke and plume through the use of engineering controls, such as smoke evacuators and high filtration masks.
  • During laser procedures, using standard precautions to prevent exposure to the aerosolized blood, blood by-products and pathogens contained in surgical smoke plumes.
  • Establishing and periodically reviewing policies and procedures for surgical smoke safety and control – making these policies and procedures available to staff in all areas where surgical smoke is generated.
  • Providing surgical team members with initial and ongoing education and competency verification on surgical smoke safety, including the organization’s policies and procedures. 
  • Conducting periodic training exercises to assess surgical smoke precautions and consistent evacuation for the surgical suite and procedural area. 

“While exposure of surgical smoke to patients is short-term and relatively low risk, surgeons, perioperative nurses and other operating room staff are exposed to surgical smoke daily,” says Ana Pujols McKee, MD, executive vice president, chief medical officer and chief diversity and inclusion officer, The Joint Commission. “At high concentrations, surgical smoke may cause ocular and upper respiratory tract irritation and potentially create visual problems for the surgeon. This is why it is so important for hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers to be aware of the risks of surgical smoke and how they can best mitigate those risks.”

Additional resources from The Joint Commission are provided in the advisory, along with resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ANSI, AORN and several other academic journals.  

For more information and to read the latest Quick Safety, visit The Joint Commission website. The advisory may be reproduced if credited to The Joint Commission. 


About The Joint Commission 
Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 22,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, nonprofit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at



  • Ambulatory Health Care
  • Ambulatory Surgery Centers
  • Hospital