Novel Device Helps Eliminate Smoke in the Operating Room, a Workplace Hazard for Surgical Teams

UChicago Professor J. Michael Millis designed a new device to remove surgical smoke from operating rooms (Image credit:

A new device designed by University of Chicago Professor of Surgery J. Michael Millis helps remove surgical smoke from operating rooms, a known workplace hazard which has recently become a concern among surgeons and operating room staff.

Multiple studies have shown the negative impacts of smoke generated by electrosurgical tools used in the OR. The smoke, which may contain chemicals and bone, tissue and/or macromolecular fragments, can cause side effects that range from eye, nose and throat irritation to chronic pulmonary conditions. It can also limit vision during operations.

Legislators have taken note and ten states, including Illinois, have enacted laws that require medical centers to control surgical smoke during procedures.

“With the increased concern over smoke in the operating room, a solution was needed that works with the various electrosurgical instruments clinicians use,” said Millis, a renowned pediatric and adult liver transplant surgeon and vice chair of global surgery at UChicago.

The most popular device currently on the market comes in the shape of a cone and works with only one surgical tool, Millis said. The device also interferes with the use of that surgical tool.

Millis’ invention consists of a semi-hollow ring that has one or more voids internally, each with an air input, and several small holes facing the center of the ring. It can attach to the forced air and vacuum lines (or both) that exist in traditional OR setups. The ring fits on top of existing wound protectors or can simply be placed around the surgical site to help reduce smoke.

“I came up with the idea of using a ring on my drive to work one morning,” said Millis, who has created several devices for personal use during procedures. “A ring could go around the surgical incision and suck the smoke out of the wound as it’s being generated, regardless of what kind of device was used to generate the smoke.”

Millis partnered with the Polsky Center on development of the device. Initial designs and drawings were prepared by Ben Cox, manager of technology development and IP at Polsky, with guidance from Millis. This design assistance is part of an ongoing effort by the Polsky Center to provide engineering support for medical devices from University of Chicago clinicians, including generation of computer-aided design (CAD) drawings as well as connections to area manufacturers.

Millis now hopes to partner with a manufacturer who can help optimize the device and prepare it for mass production. Ultimately, he hopes this product will make a positive impact on the medical field.

“An early mentor of mine advised me to always look for ways to make things better,” Millis said. “Whether that’s figuring out a better smoke evacuation system or a better way to do an operation, that’s been a part of how I have looked at my career. With this device, I have hopefully developed something that will really help those of us in the operating room do what we love to do.”

INTERESTED IN THIS TECHNOLOGY? Contact Michael Hinton, Manager, Technology Marketing, who can provide more detail about this technology, discuss the licensing process, and connect you with the inventor.

// Polsky Patented is a column highlighting research and inventions from University of Chicago faculty. For more information about available technologies, click here.

Article by Devon McPhee, freelance writer and editor, and owner of DM Editorial Services, LLC. Devon has more than 20 years of experience covering science and technology, health and medicine, business, and higher education.

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