Effect of Electrocautery Settings on Particulate Concentrations in Surgical Plume during Tonsillectomy
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Effect of Electrocautery Settings on Particulate Concentrations in Surgical Plume during Tonsillectomy

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  • Alternative Title:
    Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg
  • Personal Author:
  • Description:

    To describe the effect of monopolar electrocautery (EC) settings on surgical plume particulate concentration during pediatric tonsillectomy.

    Study Design.

    Cross-sectional study.


    Tertiary medical center.

    Subjects and Methods.

    During total tonsillectomy exclusively performed with EC, air was sampled with a surgeon-worn portable particle counter. The airborne mean and maximum particle concentrations were compared for tonsillectomy performed with EC at 12 W vs 20 W, with smoke evacuation system (SES) and no smoke evacuation (NS).


    A total of 36 children were included in this analysis: 9 cases with EC at 12 W and SES (12SES), 9 cases with EC at 20 W and SES (20SES), 9 cases with EC at 12 W without SES (12NS), and 9 cases with EC at 20 W without SES (20NS). Mean particle number concentration in the breathing zone during tonsillectomy was 1661 particles/cm3 for 12SES, 5515 particles/cm3 for 20SES, 8208 particles/cm3 for 12NS, and 78,506 particles/cm3 for 20NS. There was a statistically significant difference in the particle number concentrations among the 4 groups. The correlation between the particle number concentration and EC time was either moderate (for 12SES) or negative (for remaining groups).


    Airborne particle concentrations during tonsillectomy are over 9.5 times higher when EC is set at 20 W vs 12 W with NS, which is mitigated to 3.3 times with SES. Applying lower EC settings with SES during pediatric tonsillectomy significantly reduces surgical plume exposure for patients, surgeons, and operating room personnel, which is a well-known occupational health hazard.

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