Study: Surgical fires more common than thought

Operating room fires are a particularly nasty complication of surgery, but in most cases, an extremely rare one--or so it has been thought. However, new data suggests that OR fires aren't quite as unusual as has been commonly believed. The data comes from Pennsylvania, which collects comprehensive statistics on the subject. It seems that the state has seen 28 OR fires a year for each of three years, or about 1 fire for every 87,000 surgeries.  Other studies suggest that 44 percent of surgical fires occur during head, face, neck or chest surgery, when electric tools are closest to oxygen supplies.

If Pennsylvania's experience is any indication, there may be hundreds of fires each year in the U.S., rather than the 50 to 100 fires per year estimated by some patient safety organizations. Research suggests that some predictable sources, including use of 100 percent oxygen and alcohol-based cleaning products, often cause the fires.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this article from The Boston Globe

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