A Pilot Study to Determine Medical Laser Generated Air Contaminant Emission Rates for a Simulated Surgical Procedure
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that half a million health-care workers are exposed to laser surgical smoke each year. The purpose of this study was to establish a methodology to (1) estimate emission rates of laser-generated air contaminants (LGACs) using an emission chamber, and to (2) perform a screening study to differentiate the effects of three laser operational parameters. An emission chamber was designed, fabricated, and assessed for performance to estimate the emission rates of gases and particles associated with LGACs during a simulated surgical procedure. Two medical lasers (Holmium Yttrium Aluminum Garnet [Ho:YAG] and carbon dioxide [CO2]) were set to a range of plausible medical laser operational parameters in a simulated surgery to pyrolyze porcine skin generating plume in the emission chamber. Power, pulse repetition frequency (PRF), and beam diameter were evaluated to determine the effect of each operational parameter on emission rate using a fractional factorial design. The plume was sampled for particulate matter and seven gas phase combustion byproduct contaminants (benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide): the gas phase emission results are presented here. Most of the measured concentrations of gas phase contaminants were below their limit of detection (LOD), but detectable measurements enabled us to determine laser operation parameter influence on CO2 emissions. Confined to the experimental conditions of this screening study, results indicated that beam diameter was statistically significantly influential and power was marginally statistically significant to emission rates of CO2 when using the Ho:YAG laser but not with the carbon dioxide laser; PRF was not influential vis-a-vis emission rates of these gas phase contaminants.