Any time a person goes in for a surgery there is a certain amount of risk involved. However, when negligence becomes involved, the risk of a surgery leading to injuries and death greatly increases.
In an effort to try and prevent future burn injuries caused by medical negligence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is paying special attention to surgical fires, which the agency claims happen way too much. In fact, there are between 550 and 650 surgical fires a year. Many of these fires lead to severe burns, disfiguration and even death.
When looking at what causes a surgical fire, an oxidizer, ignition source and a fuel all need to be involved. In a surgery setting, these three factors frequently all come in contact as oxygen and nitrous oxide are both oxidizers. Equipment used in surgery, such as lasers and drills, are ignition sources. And sponges, drapes and tracheal tubes are common and all considered a fuel source.
In general, many people tend to blame surgical fires on the presence of alcohol, which is commonly used in preparation for an operation. However, it turns out alcohol only plays a role in about 4 percent of surgical fires. These surgical fires tend to happen when medical staff fails to listen to the recommendation to wait at least three minutes to let an alcohol solution dry before starting surgery.
Looking to the future, the hope is the extra attention the FDA has been giving to surgical fires will result in doctors and nurses becoming more educated on the topic and make smarter choices when it comes to patient safety.