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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. 

​Free surgical fire video

An 18-minute video, produced by ECRI Institute for the Anesthesiology Patient Safety Foundation, Prevention and Management of Operating Room Fires, is an important educational resource for everyone who works in the OR during surgery. View the video or order a free DVD.

Fire extinguisher recommendations for operating rooms

ECRI Institute has recommended carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers for use in the OR for more than twenty years. This recommendation is supported by the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). The recommendation has also been published in the June 2006 issue of AORN Journal from the Association of peri-Operative Registered Nurses.

Make sure your facility is aware of surgical fire prevention

ECRI Institute can provide you with new clinical guidelines on surgical fire prevention. For ordering and product information, please e-mail your request to Client Management Services, or call us at (610) 825-6000, ext. 5891.