Initiative launched to prevent surgical fires

Blog Post created by judycomoletti Employee on Oct 13, 2011

Did you know that an estimated 550 to 650 surgical fires occur in the United States each year? It was news to me.

A surgical fire is a fire that occurs in, on or around a patient who is undergoing a medical or surgical procedure. It can occur when an ignition source such as electrosurgical units, lasers and fiberoptic light sources; a fuel source such as surgical drapes, alcohol-based skin preparation agents, or the patient; and an oxidizer such as oxygen, nitrous oxide or room air are present at any time. Things that may not burn in room air can ignite easily and burn fiercely in an oxygen-enriched environment. The placement of surgical drapes and the handling of an ignition source (such as placing it on a surgical drape) may increase the chance that a surgical fire may occur.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its partners have just launched the “Preventing Surgical Fires” initiative to raise awareness of the risks of surgical fires and promote the adoption of risk reduction practices throughout the healthcare community. The initiative is providing patients with information on surgical fires including the risks, how these fires happen and things that can be done to reduce the possibility of a fire. Healthcare professionals can find recommendations on preventing surgical fires as well as resources and tools. Videos, checklists, and more have been created for this project.

- Judy Comoletti