Surgical fires, though rare, can have devastating consequences for patients, staff, and the healthcare facility as a whole. It’s important to know how such fires can be prevented—and how to handle them if they occur.
Surgical fires that ignite in or around a patient during surgery continue to be a real danger, and are especially devastating if open oxygen sources are present during surgery of the head, face, neck, and upper chest.
Fortunately, surgical fires are rare, they occur in only an extremely small percentage of the approximately 65 million surgical cases each year. Extrapolating from data published by the
Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority in 2012, we estimate that 200 to 240 fires occur nationally each year, making the frequency of their occurrence comparable to that of other surgical mishaps (e.g.,
wrong-site surgery or retained instruments).
Through awareness of the hazards—and with an emphasis on following safe practices—virtually all surgical fires can be prevented.