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The FDA is reiterating the threat of surgical fires in the operating room due to factors like the delivery of supplemental oxygen to patients and use of alcohol based antiseptics. The FDA is launching a surgical fire prevention initiative to promote safer practices and to share fire prevention resources.
Surgical fires are rare events that can result in serious injury, disfigurement and death. According to ECRI Institute, an estimated 550 to 650 surgical fires occur in the United States per year. Surgical fires are preventable. However, the FDA continues to receive reports of surgical fires some resulting in second and third-degree degree patient burns. Deaths are less common and are typically associated with fires occurring in the patient’s airway.
In addition to lasers and cautery devices, a spark can arise from the use of high-speed drills or fiber optic cables. What can burn in the OR? Almost anything: sponges, drapes, towels, hoods, masks, anesthesia circuits, multiple types of dressings, and the aforementioned alcohol prep solutions. And therein, literally, lies the rub, because applying the alcohol to kill pathogens at the surgical site brings fuel to a potential fire.
The FDA cites the following key elements in safe of alcohol-based (flammable) skin preparation agents safely:
FDA recommendations to use supplemental oxygen safely.