Understanding the danger of surgical smoke inhalation


Growing numbers of studies are highlighting the dangerous effects of surgical smoke inhalation in operating theatres, yet the urgency to protect healthcare workers has not yet followed.

The dangers of surgical smoke are beginning to be recognised in the US, with 10 states now introducing surgical smoke-free legislation¹, but we still have a long way to go to significantly reduce the risks of surgical smoke in the UK.

Recent reports such as The Association for Perioperative Practice's survey on the Hazards of Surgical Smoke Plume in Operating Theatres, and the CSJ's report on Surgical Smoke Inhalation, have highlighted that a significant number of theatre staff have experience symptoms related to smoke inhalation.

But less than a fifth are aware of any policies in place to manage these hazards².

What is surgical smoke?

Surgical smoke is the substance that forms as a result of the thermal destruction of tissue by lasers or electrosurgical devices. In simple terms, it is the smoke that is generated by cutting and cautersing human flesh - a process that happens in most types of invasive surgery³. 

What are the effects of surgical smoke on the body?

  • Surgical smoke can contain HPV DNA, increasing the risk of infection for nurses and surgical staff
  • It can contain contaminants that can cause a number of clinical complications
  • Prolonged exposure can induce acute inflammatory conditions such as bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, and emphysema

Campaigning for a healthier colposcopy environment

Not enough is being done to create safety standards and provide the protection needed to keep healthcare workers and their patients safe.

We are campaigning for a healthier colposcopy environment in the UK, asking for point of source surgical smoke extraction to become mandatory. We're calling for the government to mandate national guidelines that will take into account the risks of surgical smoke exposure, and the minimum safety protocols that should be followed to mitigate these risks.

Introducing Instraspec Contour® XTRACT

In response to the growing concerns for surgical smoke risks, we've come up with a solution. The Instraspec Contour® XTRACT.

A single-use vaginal speculum with smoke extraction insert, the Instraspec Contour® XTRACT builds on the already award-winning design of the Instraspec Contour® - continuing to provide ultimate patient comfort and an unbreakable design with five available sizes. 

When used in conjuction with a complete smoke extraction system, the Instraspec Contour® XTRACT can signifcantly reduce surgical smoke inhalation in healthcare settings and importantly, protect staff and patients. 

We recommend the use of the Instraspec Contour® XTRACT as a key element of a complete surgical extraction system for all gynecological procedures involving electrosurgery.

To find out more about the dangers of surgical smoke, and how the Instraspec Contour® XTRACT can help you, click here.


1. Orr, A. Which states currently have surgical smoke-free regulations, and which are coming up?. [online] Boehringer Labs. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 July 2022].

2. The Association of Perioperative Practice. 2022. The Results of Our Surgical Smoke Plume Survey Are Now Available - The Association for Perioperative Practice. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 July 2022].

3. Vernacare. 2022. The Importance of reducing surgical smoke in colposcopy