A surgical fire is potentially devastating for a patient. Fire has been recognised as a potential complication of surgery for many years. Surgical fires continue to happen with alarming frequency. Yardley and Donaldson present a review of the literature and an examination of possible solutions to this problem.
The authors found that fire occurs when the three elements of the fire triad, fuel, oxidiser and ignition, coincide. Surgical fires are unusual in the absence of an oxygen-enriched atmosphere. The ignition source is most commonly diathermy but lasers carry a relatively greater risk. The majority of fires occur during head and neck surgery. This is due to the presence of oxygen and the extensive use of lasers. The risk of fire can be reduced with an awareness of the risk and good communication.
Surgery will always carry a risk of fire. Reducing this risk requires a concerted effort from all team members.