Surgical Fires Can Be Grounds for Massachusetts Medical Malpractice

According to the Emergency Care Research Institute, out of the 50 million medical operations that take place in the US, about 600 of them result in accidental surgical fires. The outcome can be catastrophic for the patient, who may sustain serious burn injuries.

According to the, one woman sustained second- and third-degree burns on her face, eyes, nose, mouth, and back when a surgical fire broke out while she was undergoing a tracheotomy. Her injuries prevented her from eating, walking, or talking. Meantime, in Massachusetts, there has been one surgical fire since 2007.

Surgical Fires
Surgical fires occur when oxygen is flowing and a spark is created by a surgical tool that can cause anything flammable to catch fire. If the flammable item is close to the patient, it can cause the nasal canula or mask to ignite as if it were struck by a blowtorch. This may explain why these fires appear to have a greater chance of happening during neck and head procedures that require heat, air, and fuel to be in close proximity.

According to safety advocates, there are ways that operating room fires can be prevented. The patient or doctor may opt for less or no oxygen to be used during the procedure. Non-alcohol based skin preparations can also be used.

According to, some of the fuels that are often encountered during surgical procedures include:

• GI tract gases • Human hair • Alcohol • Degreasers • Tinctures • Gauze • Adhesive tape • Sponges • Surgical gowns and masks • Ointments • Paraffin • Anesthesia components • Gloves • Smoke evacuator hoses
The hospital and surgical team are required to make sure that a surgical patient is not exposed to any hazards before, during, or after a surgical procedure that can cause injury or death. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be grounds for a Massachusetts medical malpractice lawsuit.

Surgical Fires Rare, But Catastrophic, WCVBTV, March 16, 2009
Surgical Fire

Related Web Resources:
Fires during surgeries a bigger risk than thought,, November 7 2007
Medical Malpractice Overview, Justia
Contact our Boston medical malpractice attorneys for your free case evaluation.

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