Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner & Davey, P.A.

Baltimore Law Blog

In April, we wrote about a woman who filed a lawsuit against a physician and hospital after she suffered third-degree burns on her stomach from a surgical fire during a cesarean section. Although this seems like it would be an isolated incident, Baltimore residents may be shocked to find out that the Food and Drug Administration says about 550 to 650 surgical fires occur each year in operating rooms all over the county.

A surgical fire can leave people with devastating injuries, it may even cause death. Victims of surgical fires or their surviving family members may have cause to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

A judge recently ruled that a hospital is liable for the injuries a man suffered during a surgery to insert a pacemaker in 2008. The surgery left the 68-year-old man with second-degree burns on his shoulder, chest and neck.

Nurses say an alcohol-based antiseptic caused the fire when it wasn't given enough time to dry. However, hospital officials say oxygen was the likely cause.

Oxygen is a common cause of operating room fires. Operating rooms typically have a high concentration of oxygen. When oxygen is used during surgery, the concentration only increases.

In 2006, a 72-year-old woman suffered second-degree burns after a nurse anesthetist failed to inform the surgeon that more oxygen had been administered. The nurse anesthetist was found liable and ordered to pay $250,000 in damages.

This week the FDA is holding a webinar to inform health care workers about the dangers of surgical fires and the steps to take to prevent them. In addition to learning what to do to prevent surgical fires, medical professionals should always take precautions when they enter the operating room to avoid accidents and mistakes of any kind.

Source:, "FDA focusing on patients catching fire in operating rooms," Aisling Swift, June 12, 2012

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