Surgery Fire Malpractice Lawyers

Donald Saiontz

By Donald Saiontz
Posted September 27, 2008


Research suggests that between 550 and 650 people are affected every year by surgery fires, and many of these sudden fires result in severe and disfiguring burns. A combination of electrosurgical tools, oxygen and paper hospital drapes could cause a sudden fire to ignite in the operating room. However, there are steps that doctors and hospitals can take to reduce the risk of operating room fires.

>>INFORMATION: Surgical Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

A feature article yesterday on highlights the risks of surgery fire malpractice and the devastating impacts they can have on patients undergoing surgical procedures.

According to data collected from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System in 2007 there could be one fire for every 87,646 operations. Pennsylvania requires reporting of medical errors and researchers found that there were 28 surgery fires in Pennsylvania alone last year.

Researchers indicate that this likely means that there are between 550 and 650 surgical fires annually, about 20 to 30 that result in serious and disfiguring second and third degree burns and 1 to 2 deaths from operating room fires.

Approximately 65% of burns from surgical fires occur on the upper body or inside the patient’s airway, 25% occur elsewhere on the body and less than 10% occur inside the body cavity. The vast majority (70%) of surgery fires are caused by electrosurgical tools which are used to cut tissue or stop bleeding. About 20% of fires are caused by sparks from hot wires, light sources, burrs or defibrillators. 10% of fires can be sparked off by lasers.

There are a number of prudent and reasonable steps that the hospitals, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses can take to reduce the risk of a surgical fire injury. The American Society of Anesthesiologists and several other organizations have made recommendations to reduce the risk of these fires. Some of these steps could include:

  • Fire Drills: Less than half of hospitals in U.S. currently conduct operating room fire drills to prevent and control fires
  • Good Communication: The surgeons and anesthesiologists control the primary factors that cause operation fires, and if they announce when certain surgical tools are being used, the anesthesiologist may be able to adjust the amount of oxygen provided to reduce the risk of fire
  • Training and Education: Expanding education and training for medical staff can raise awareness of fire prevention during surgical procedures


The medical malpractice lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. investigate potential lawsuits involving surgery errors and anesthesiologist mistakes throughout the United States. If a fire during surgery resulted in a severe injury for you, a friend or family member, request a free malpractice consultation and claim evaluation.

1 Comment • Add Your Comments

  • Brian says:

    My grandmother went in to have a mole removed. She was put on oxygen, o2 flashed back and caught fire in hospital. She is now burnt on her lips, face and inside her chest cavity. She was tranferred to a different hospital burn unit. She spent the day and night on a vent. Vent taken out today and she is expected to be okay.

    Posted on October 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

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