The risk of COVID-19 transmission by laparoscopic smoke may be lower than for laparotomy: a narrative review

Yoav Mintz, Alberto Arezzo, Luigi Boni, Ludovica Baldari, Elisa Cassinotti, Ronit Brodie, Selman Uranues, MinHua Zheng, Abe Fingerhut
Surgical Endoscopy 2020 May 26

BACKGROUND: Surgical smoke is a well-recognized hazard in the operating room. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, surgical societies quickly published guidelines recommending avoiding laparoscopy or to consider open surgery because of the fear of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through surgical smoke or aerosol. This narrative review of the literature aimed to determine whether there are any differences in the creation of surgical smoke/aerosol between laparoscopy and laparotomy and if laparoscopy may be safer than laparotomy.

METHODS: A literature search was performed using the Pubmed, Embase and Google scholar search engines, as well as manual search of the major journals with specific COVID-19 sections for ahead-of-print publications.

RESULTS: Of 1098 identified articles, we critically appraised 50. Surgical smoke created by electrosurgical and ultrasonic devices has the same composition both in laparoscopy and laparotomy. SARS-CoV-2 has never been found in surgical smoke and there is currently no data to support its virulence if ever it could be transmitted through surgical smoke/aerosol.

CONCLUSION: If laparoscopy is performed in a closed cavity enabling containment of surgical smoke/aerosol, and proper evacuation of smoke with simple measures is respected, and as long as laparoscopy is not contraindicated, we believe that this surgical approach may be safer for the operating team while the patient has the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. Evidence-based research in this field is needed for definitive determination of safety.

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