Entries in Surgical Fires (2)


Florida Man Sues After Surgery Fire

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(EAST NAPLES, Fla.) -- A Florida man is suing a hospital after he woke up during his pacemaker surgery to a nurse screaming, “Oh, my God! He’s on fire!”

The Naples News reported that Frank Komorowski, then 68, of East Naples, Fla., woke to the smell of burning flesh in the operating room and suffered from second-degree burns to his shoulder, chest and neck after undergoing surgery at NCH Downtown Naples Hospital on March 19, 2008.

“And the next thing I remember is...smelling my skin burning,” Komorowski testified, the Naples News reported.

“The bottom line is they set the man on fire,” Komorowski’s attorney, Mark Weinstein, argued in his hearing last week. “It is universally acknowledged this does not happen in the absence of negligence.”

But the hospital’s attorney maintains that NCH was not negligent because the surgeon who performed the operation was not a hospital employee.

Komorowski could not be reached for comment.

While surgical fires are rare, they can be prompted by the combination of heat, alcohol and oxygen in the operating room. Most of these fires occur in the oxygen-enriched environment because the concentration of oxygen in an operating room can be greater than that of ordinary room air, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The high oxygen concentration can cause that fine body hair to be extremely flammable -- a ripple of flames that spreads across the skin, traveling at 10 feet per second,” Mark Bruley, vice president for accident and forensic investigation for the ECRI Institute, told the Naples News. “Oxygen makes other things a fuel.”

An FDA spokesperson told she could not comment on ongoing investigations regarding the surgical fire, but hospital experts at NCH agreed that DuraPrep, an alcohol-based antiseptic, had not fully dried and caused a cauterizing device to set fire in the operating room.

“There are between 550 and 650 surgical fires a year,” Bruley told ABC News in December, but fewer than 30 fires per year actually result in patient injuries, he said.

Nevertheless, in October, the FDA launched the Preventing Surgical Fires Initiative to increase awareness and prevention tools for surgeons and their teams.

The government agency also held a webinar Tuesday that was meant to provide tips and insight in preventing surgical fires and risk reduction practices. Visit FDA’s Preventing Surgical Fires website for detailed information about accessing webcast slides and audio.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fire Erupts on Florida Woman’s Face During Routine Surgery

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(CRESTVIEW, Fla.) -- A Florida woman was rushed by helicopter to an Alabama burn center after her face caught fire during routine surgery.

Kim Grice, a 29-year-old mother of three, was having cysts removed from her head at an outpatient surgery center in Crestview, Fla., when the flash fire erupted.

“A flash fire is basically a fire that flashes up and then goes out,” Crestview Fire Department Chief Joseph Traylor told ABC News.  “The fire was already out when our staff arrived.”

Grice was treated at the North Okaloosa Medical Center before being flown 90 miles to the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala., with burns to her face and neck.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but surgical fires are usually sparked by heat -- often from tools like lasers -- and then fueled by alcohol, surgical drapes and oxygen.  Grice was wearing a non-rebreathable oxygen mask, according to Traylor.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched an initiative to curb surgical fires through increasing awareness and promoting risk reduction practices.

“There are between 550 and 650 surgical fires a year,” said Mark Bruley, vice president for accident and forensic investigation for the ECRI Institute, adding that fewer than 30 of them result in patient injuries.

The frequency of fires is on par with other surgical mishaps, like wrong-site surgery or retained instruments, according to the ECRI Institute.

Grice was in stable condition and talking to her family when she was transferred to the Alabama burn center, according to Rachel Neighbors, a spokeswoman for the North Okaloosa Medical Center.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio