You arrive at MedStar a little nervous but excited to get your surgery over with so you can get back home. It’s taken two months, four x-rays. a mammogram, and three specialists to determine that although it is probably just fatty tissue, the painful lump in your breast should be removed. So, you leave your husband in the waiting room as the nurses finally prep you and wheel you into the surgical suite. The doctors assured you that it’s a simple procedure and you’ll be back home in a few hours. You remember counting down as they gave you the anesthesia, “ten…nine…eight…sev…” then nothing.
When you wake up, rather than seeing your husband all ready to take you home, you see a nurse with her mouth covered by a mask, checking your vital signs. You immediately feel searing pain radiating from your chest, throat, and arms. You look down to see shiny blisters and pieces of gauze placed randomly across your torso. You try to ask the nurse what is going on, but she just tells you she’ll get the doctor and runs out of the room.
What could have happened? How could you possibly get third degree burns at a hospital, when you were surrounded by medical professionals?
Heat, Fuel, Ignition: Causes of Surgical Fires
The main sources of surgical flare-ups and fires originate from the abundance of flammable material in surgical suites. Large quantities of pure oxygen, alcohol-based disinfectants, and cotton (sheets, swabs, gauze) are good fuel sources that only require a heat source to ignite. Unfortunately, surgeons have many tools that can produce heat and sparks to cause such an ignition. Some examples are:
- Overheating electronic scalpels and tools
- Bone saws and other heavy tools that can spark on metal tables
- Cauterizing tools can ignite oxygen- or alcohol-based disinfectants merely by being too close to the source
- Faulty machinery
- Fiber optic light sources
An outstanding 650 cases of surgical fires are reported each year in the United States, according to the ECRI Institute. Although 650 incidents may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, with the many concerns you may have when you undergo surgery, catching on fire shouldn’t even be a thought, let alone a bona fide concern. This is why the FDA has recently begun publishing investigations and guidelines into surgical fire prevention; however, since all hospitals, surgical suites, and medical staff (surgeons, doctors, and nurses) cannot be perfectly safe 100 percent of the time, make sure that if you’re injured by an accidental surgical fire, you have an experienced lawyer to fight for you.
Don’t let insurance companies burn you again; contact us today for a free consultation and more information about your injury claim and rights.
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