Surgical Fires

Surgical Fires and Medical Malpractice

Surgical fires are fires that occur in or around a patient who is undergoing a medical procedure or surgery.   Shockingly, the patient’s body can catch fire and suffer serious burns and medical injury because of a surgical fire.  Often times, as part of the procedure, the patient is provided supplemental oxygen which can act as fuel for a fire.  A surgeon’s electrosurgical equipment can then create an ignition which causes the fire.

 

Frequently, surgical fires occur when the patient is undergoing procedures to the head, neck, and upper chest.  As a result, a patient can suffer facial, eye, throat, mouth, lung injuries, or even death as a result of a surgical fire.

 

Surgical fires should never happen and are preventable.  Nonetheless, the FDA estimates that approximately 550 to 650 surgical fires occur in the United States each year.

 

There are several ways to decrease the likelihood of fires occurring in the operating room:

  • Monitoring of Skin Preps.  Skin “preps” that are applied prior to surgery often contain alcohol, which is a known flammable substance.   As such, the nurses and doctors should made sure that alcohol based antiseptics do not pool and that there is adequate drying time for the antiseptic to evaporate prior to the surgical procedure.
  • Proper communication between the surgical team. Having proper communication between the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and operating nurses to identify risks for surgical fires and to know what the other personnel are doing can drastically reduce the possibility of a surgical fire.  For example, if the surgeon is alerted by the anesthesiologist that the patient’s oxygen supply is going to be increased, the surgeon can be sure to remove the electrocautery unit or laser away from the oxygen source while the oxygen is being adjusted.
  • Checking surgical drapes. If not properly monitored, surgical drapes can catch fire.  Sometimes they can become saturated in alcohol based liquids and become highly flammable.

Legal Help for those injured by hospital burns

If you or a loved one have been injured by a fire in the operating room, you have options.  A medical malpractice lawyer can help to answer your questions and determine what exactly caused the surgery.  If a medical malpractice lawsuit is warranted, you can pursue damages for the medical bills you incurred and will likely incur as a result of the fire.  You may also be entitled to receive damages for the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of the fire and for the loss of enjoyment of life that you have experienced if your burns are particularly disfiguring.  To learn more, contact Minnesota Medical Malpractice attorney Kuhlman Law, PLLC at (612) 349-2747 for a free initial consultation and to learn more about your rights.






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