To assess the exposure of surgical personnel to known carcinogens during pediatric tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A) and compare the efficacy of surgical smoke evacuation systems during T&A. Prospective, case series. Tertiary children's hospital. The present study assessed operating room workers' exposure to chemical compounds and aerosolized particulates generated during T&A. We also investigated the effect of 3 different smoke-controlling methods: smoke-evacuator pencil cautery (SE), cautery with suction held by an assistant (SA), and cautery without suction (NS). Thirty cases were included: 12 in the SE group, 9 in SA, and 9 in NS. The chemical exposure levels were lower than or similar to baseline background concentrations, with the exception of methylene chloride and acetaldehyde. Within the surgical plume, none of the chemical compounds exceeded the corresponding occupational exposure limit (OEL). The mean particulate number concentration in the breathing zone during tonsillectomy was 508 particles/cm3 for SE compared to 1661 particles/cm3 for SA and 8208 particles/cm3 for NS cases. NS was significantly different compared to the other two methods (P = .0009). Although the exposure levels to chemicals were considerably lower than the OELs, continuous exposures to these chemicals could cause adverse health effects to surgical personnel. These findings suggest that the use of a smoke-evacuator pencil cautery or an attentive assistant with handheld suction would reduce exposure levels to the aerosolized particles during routine T&A, compared to the use of cautery without suction.
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