It is not the first surgical complication that comes to mind, but a patient bursting into flames on the operating table is more common than you might think. Not a matter of spontaneous combustion, this often happens when an alcohol-based sterilizer is set afire by electrical equipment.
Frequency of Fires
Some studies show the incidence of operating room fires decreasing, while others feel an increase in anesthesia malpractice claims indicates an increase. The FDA and Joint Commission keep records of incidents, but reporting is not mandatory. Instead, reports typically are generated by patient complaints.
Preventing Surgical Fires
The Food and Drug Administration has been emphasizing its Preventing Surgical Fires Initiative since 2010. The ECRI Institute, which researches patient safety, believes that almost all surgical fires can be prevented. However, the hospital industry has been slow to adopt the practices that would prevent the fires.
The FDA is not the only organization promoting fire prevention in hospitals. Other organizations, including the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation, the National Quality Forum, and the Joint Commission all are attempting to increase awareness of the problem. The FDA is working with 28 other organizations in its efforts in this area.
Besides working to change awareness, the FDA allowed the maker of one popular antiseptic to warn that some versions of the product require longer drying time before using electrical surgery devices, while other versions of the product shouldn’t be used near those tools at all.
In addition to those product-specific recommendations, general recommendations include giving alcohol products at least three minutes to fully evaporate; there are specific areas of the body that should be given even more time for the alcohol to evaporate. All surgical teams should be prepared to handle a fire situation if it should occur. Wet sponges or towels along with water or saline should be close on hand for dousing flames if necessary.
Gladstein Law Firm stands ready to help you, especially if someone you love has been hurt by medical malpractice. If you or a family member has been injured or killed due to the negligence of a medical professional, contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC as soon as possible for a free consultation. We can review your situation, inform you of your legal rights and options, and work to help you or your loved one seek the compensation to which you may be entitled.