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The Lawrence Firm Blog

Fires do occur in hospital operating rooms

While lying on an operating table, a patient that had been administered anesthesia recalls a nurse screaming: “Oh, my God! He’s on fire!” The patient did not imagine what he heard because he actually did suffer second-degree burn injuries to his shoulder, chest, and neck due to a hospital error.

Thankfully, this didn’t happen in Kentucky or Ohio, though there may have been similar instances of this occurring here that have gone unreported. Approximately 550 to 650 surgical fires occur every year, and often such fires have resulted in severe and debilitating injuries to patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls surgical fires a persistent problem. So strongly is this a concern of the FDA the agency has turned education concerning this problem into a safety initiative.

Surgical fires generally do not occur without three separate factors being present: (a) an oxidizer that provides either oxygen or nitrous oxide to the patient; (b) an ignition source such as an electric surgical device; and (c) a fuel source that could include sponges, tracheal tubes or even drapes. Unfortunately, all three elements are usually present whenever surgery is being performed.

Attorneys that practice in the area of medical malpractice understand how easily mistakes can be made. Such attorneys also understand what hospitals can do to prevent such mistakes from ever occurring.

Though it may seem like common sense, hospitals should have in place certain safety precautions that would prevent such fires from starting to begin with. The fact that such fires do too often occurs suggest that some hospitals have not taken these precautions.

Also, hospitals should have in place procedures that would deal with a surgical fire if one happened to ignite. Since such dangers are known to occur, emergency procedures could help prevent a tragedy from occurring.

Source: Kentucky Post, “FDA focusing on patients catching fire in operating rooms,” by Aisling Swift, June 12, 2012


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