Extinguishing a Fire on the Patient

February 8, 2017 | Evaluations & Guidance


The initial response to a surgical fire on a patient should be to stop the flow of gases to the patient and to remove the burning materials. This is especially true for fires around the head, neck, and face. Immediately announcing that there is a fire to the OR team members is also critical.

The first response should not be to retrieve a fire extinguisher or other firefighting equipment. Surgical fires can spread so rapidly that they will be out of control before an extinguisher can be used. In the 30 years that ECRI Institute has been investigating and collecting reports on hundreds of surgical fires, there have only been a few cases that we know of in which an extinguisher was needed and used.

An extinguisher should be employed, if needed, only after other steps are taken, as described below. (The recommended actions for extinguishing a surgical fire—either on the patient or in...

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