Surgical risk of flash fires more common than expected

Surgery poses many risks. One, flash fires, has recently been shown to be more common than previously thought. In one of the states with the most comprehensive collection of statistics, 28 fires a year in operating rooms has been the average over the last three years. Medical malpractice lawsuits have not been uncommon results of surgical fires. Fires in operating rooms have not gained as much attention as other surgical hazards, such as wrong-site surgery, but these fires have proven themselves dangerous by causing serious injuries and deaths. One of the most fatal surgical fires occurs during throat surgery. Common fire hazards in todays operating rooms include the use of 100% oxygen, which can increase the flammability of gauze and hair when leaked into the air; alcohol-based skin cleansers; and the increasing use of advanced surgical tools like lasers and electrocautery devices. One of the most commonly cited causes of surgical fires is poor communication between surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists. Prevention policies have been on the rise as more oversight groups have recommended them.

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