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Surgical fires, though rare, can have devastating consequences for patients, staff, and the healthcare facility. It’s important to know how such fires can be prevented, how to handle them if they occur, and the practices recommended for prevention.

Surgical fires that ignite in or around a patient during surgery are especially devastating if open oxygen sources are present during surgery of the head, face, neck, and upper chest. Out of the 65 million annual surgical cases in the US, ECRI Institute estimates around 200-240 surgical fires occur, making the frequency of their occurrence comparable to that of other surgical mishaps (e.g., wrong-site surgery or retained instruments).

​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.

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.

For More Information

We can help your organization react quickly and knowledgeably to restore operations and maintain confidence after an surgical fire. Our services are undertaken in strict confidence within the limits of ethical and legal confidentiality principles. For more information, call: (610) 825-6000, ext. 5891 or email: