Advances in technology have revolutionized health care delivery and brought immense changes to surgical practice. New OR protocols and breakthrough productivity tools, including sophisticated surgical smoke evacuation systems, have made surgical practice safer, more effective and more efficient.

Yet adoption of new ideas and techniques does not occur naturally.  Convincing physicians to employ the latest methods and technologies, even those that demonstrably improve patient outcomes and enhance procedural efficiency, can be tough. This is often the case with surgical smoke evacuation systems. Even when they are available, surgeons may be reluctant to use them.

Why? One possible reason is lack of knowledge about the risks of surgical smoke and the danger that plume inhalation poses for both patients and OR staff. In other words, some surgeons simply do not recognize the need for smoke evacuation.

Another contributing factor is the complacent physician culture. Doctors are trained to avoid risks, and many have become accustomed to doing things a certain way.  Adaptation to new methods and new technologies inevitably involves a learning curve, and this can be daunting for some practitioners.

Finally, there is the natural human resistance to change. Change of any type is hard.

When asked about barriers to employing surgical smoke evacuation systems in their surgeries, surgeons may cite factors such as cost of new equipment (especially if it is a physician-owned practice) or the noise, bulk, and general inconvenience of dealing with additional equipment in the OR

Their arguments are largely obsolete as state-of-the-art equipment is now designed and engineered to be quiet, unobtrusive, easy to use, ergonomic and up to 100 percent effective.

So, how to go about redirecting the traditional cultural mindset and facilitating adoption of advanced surgical smoke evacuation systems, such as I.C. Medical’s Crystal Vision? First and foremost, dissemination of information about the toxicity of surgical smoke and the danger of exposure to it is key. Education about advances in evacuation science is also essential. And finally, hospitals and clinical administrators need to foster a culture where surgeons feel supported in making changes to their practices and adopting state-of-the-art evacuation technologies.

Change is never easy.  Human beings resist change. But the handwriting is on the wall with respect to surgical smoke evacuation in ORs. Hospitals and clinics worldwide are adopting protocols that reflect best practices for smoke evacuation. The Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) recently published a Guideline for Surgical Smoke Safety that recommends use of effective smoke evacuation equipment in surgical settings.  And legislation has been introduced in some states to mandate surgical smoke evacuation standards.

Since it is almost certain that surgical smoke evacuation will become the next big issue in surgical practice as more and more information emerges about the potential risks of surgical plume to patients and surgical team members, physicians and surgeons should be leading the charge for adoption of evacuation equipment that makes their lives easier, enhances the well-being of perioperative staff, and enhances outcomes for patients.