Monitoring early cell damage in physicians who are occupationally exposed to inhalational anesthetics
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Worldwide, millions of professionals who work in operating rooms are occupationally exposed to inhalational anesthetics. Thus, the potential health effects of the continuous exposure to inhalational anesthetics on individuals in the operating room remain a subject of debate. Human biomonitoring is a potentially useful tool for assessing the health of exposed professionals. No report has yet evaluated the possible cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of the most commonly used inhalational anesthetics on young professionals who are occupationally exposed. Considering the importance of this issue, we monitored physicians who were exposed to inhalational anesthetics during their first year of a medical residency program to evaluate the possible early damage events. Twenty-six young physicians who had been occupationally exposed to the anesthetics isoflurane, sevoflurane, desflurane, and nitrous oxide and who worked in operating rooms using modern anesthesia workstations during their medical residency program, participated in this study. Blood samples were evaluated before the start of the program (before the exposure), and after 1/2 year and 1 year of exposure. We monitored the subjects by assessing the cytotoxicity (early apoptosis and loss of the mitochondrial membrane potential) using flow cytometry and genotoxicity using the comet assay. No significant changes were observed in the biomarkers of cytotoxicity or genotoxicity (p > 0.05). Thus, biomonitoring showed that short-term exposure to inhalational anesthetics did not induce early cell damage during the first year of medical residency. Based on the results, brief occupational exposure to anesthetics does not induce either cytotoxicity or genotoxicity in mononuclear cells under the conditions of this study. Thus, young physicians should undergo additional biomonitoring at the beginning of their careers to determine possible toxic effects on their cells and genetic material, and further investigations are warranted to determine whether a longer exposure to inhalational anesthetics results in mitochondrial depolarization, apoptosis and DNA breaks.
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