Here a few ways to reduce risks of surgical fires.

Reducing Surgical Fires


According to the ECRI Institute, an estimated 550 to 600 surgical fires occur every year. While these specific fires rarely occur, they’re still very serious events that can harm the patients and physicians involved, as well as the reputation of the health care facility. Surgical fires can be caused by medical products used during procedures, such as medical gases, alcohol-based skin preparation agents, estro surgical units, lasers and fiber optic light sources, as stated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  This can make the idea of undergoing surgery even more stressful for patients, which makes taking extra precautions to prevent such fires critical.

Here a few ways to reduce the risk of surgical fires:

1. Administer a Fire Risk Assessment Before Preparation
Before every surgical procedure, conduct a fire risk assessment. Monitor ignition sources from ESUs, laser and fiber optic light sources, check fuel sources, such as surgical drapes and alcohol-based skin preparation agents, and ensure the delivery of supplemental oxygen from the oxidizer is successful. When the oxygen in the room is greater than it is in normal air, materials that usually wouldn’t catch fire are more likely to ignite and burn. Keep these precautionary measures in mind.

2. Prioritize Communication With the Surgical Team
Poor communication during the surgical procedure can cause a mistake to occur, so make certain the surgical team is always talking to ensure everyone’s safety. For example, the anesthesia professional who is delivering the oxygen should have a clear path for communicating with the surgeon who controls the ignition source. Encourage all team members to vocalize their actions throughout the procedure to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Communicate with the surgical team and plan an emergency evacuation plan if a surgical fire occurs.Communicate with the surgical team and plan an emergency evacuation plan if a surgical fire occurs.

3. Use Skin Preparation Agents Safely
Poorly executing the skin preparation process could put the surgical site up in flames almost instantly. Be sure to use such alcohol-based materials safely throughout the surgical procedure. The FDA recommends the following tips to ensure flammable agents don’t catch fire during surgery:

  • Use the appropriate size applicator to prevent alcohol-based antiseptics from spilling or overflowing during the procedure.
  • After applying the skin preparation agents, safely remove all alcohol soaked materials from the preparation area, and as far away from the surgical area as possible.
  • Before leaving the preparation area, make certain the skin preparation agent has ample time to dry based on what the prescription label suggests. For all alcohol-based agents placed on skin folds or hairy surfaces, drying time should be extended and closely monitored.
  • Before pursuing the surgery, ensure the skin is completely dry to prevent alcohol-agent related fires.

4. Use Oxygen Safely
If supplemental oxygen is needed during the surgery, make certain to only use the minimum concentration necessary per each patients’ needs, and administer the oxygen through a closed delivery system – especially when a high concentration of oxygen must be administered.

5. Learn How to Mitigate a Surgical Fire if one Occurs
Taking extra precautions to prevent surgical fires from occurring is critical, but understanding how to mitigate the potential fire is even more important. Make sure all of your surgical team members understand how to use a fire extinguisher, how to put out a fire burning on a patient, where and when to evacuate by conducting fire drills and more. You may also consider keeping saline in the operating room to put out the fire if necessary.

6. Consider OBP Medical’s ONETRAC, Single-Use Cordless Lighted Retractor
Unfortunately, reusable surgical tools with fiber optic light sources may increase one’s risk for experiencing a burn caused by a surgical fire. Instead of relying on such products, doctors can consider our ONETRAC Single-Use Cordless Lighted Retractor. This ready-to-use device includes a battery powered LED light source and smoke evacuation channel, making fiber optic cables obsolete. Beyond its burn and surgical fire prevention convenience, the single-use ONETRAC tool requires no maintenance, thus eliminating time and expense of reprocessing while also reducing the risk of cross-contamination in the surgical setting. Each product is individually packaged and includes an on/off switch to preserve illumination strength and maximize sterilization.

For more information on the ONETRAC Single-USE Cordless Lighted Retractor, request your free sample today.