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Electrocautery, Diathermy, and Surgical Energy Devices: Are Surgical Teams at Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Annals of Surgery 2020 September 2
OBJECTIVE: The aim of the study was to provide a rapid synthesis of available data to identify the risk posed by utilizing surgical energy devices intraoperatively due to the generation of surgical smoke, an aerosol. Secondarily it aims to summarize methods to minimize potential risk to operating room staff.

SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Continuing operative practice during the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic places the health of operating theatre staff at potential risk. SARS-CoV2 is transmitted through inhaled droplets and aerosol particles, thus posing an inhalation threat even at considerable distance. Surgical energy devices generate an aerosol of biological particular matter during use. The risk to healthcare staff through use of surgical energy devices is unknown.

METHODS: This review was conducted utilizing a rapid review methodology to enable efficient generation and dissemination of information useful for concurrent clinical practice.

RESULTS: There are conflicting stances on the use of energy devices and laparoscopy by different surgical governing bodies and societies. There is no definitive evidence that aerosol generated by energy devices may carry active SARS-CoV2 virus. However, investigations of other viruses have demonstrated aerosolization through energy devise use. Measures to reduce potential transmission include appropriate personal protective equipment, evacuation and filtration of surgical plume, limiting energy device use if appropriate, and adjusting endoscopic and laparoscopic practice (low CO2 pressures, evacuation through ultrafiltration systems).

CONCLUSIONS: The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV2 through aerosolized surgical smoke associated with energy device use is not fully understood, however transmission is biologically plausible. Caution and appropriate measures to reduce risk to healthcare staff should be implemented when considering intraoperative use of energy devices.

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