An otherwise healthy patient is taken to the operating room for the removal of a neck mole under monitored sedation. After the patient is given two litres of oxygen through nasal cannula and administered intravenous sedation, an alcohol-based skin preparation is applied to the surgical field. As the surgeon uses electrocautery to coagulate bleeding, a flash occurs, and the surgical drapes ignite. After extinguishing the fire by pouring water on the surgical field, assessment of the patient reveals second-degree burns on the patient’s face. Oxygen from the nasal canula had accelerated the fire and caused the nasal cannula to melt and adhere to the patient’s face. The patient was transferred to the burn unit for care, and ultimately required reconstructive plastic surgery.
This case illustrates one type of injury that can be sustained during a surgical fire.
The Joint Commission issues this alert to help healthcare organizations recommit to surgical fire prevention.