Surgical Burns: How Do They Occur?

Individuals preparing to undergo surgery may feel anxious about a procedure and its outcome but never consider that surgical medical equipment and materials may cause severe accidental burns during surgery. Burns may result in significant injury to a patient, complicating the recovery process and causing long-term, unanticipated damage. Patients are protected and have rights under negligence laws. If you or a loved one was burned during a procedure, a Portland medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help.

Why Surgical Fires Occur

According to the National Library of Medicine, surgical fires occur around, on, or in a patient during surgery. Fires must have three components to exist. Components of a fire triangle are all present in a surgical environment and include:

  • Fuel source: Aerosoles, alcohol, blankets, drapes, dressings, gowns, hoods, sponges, mattresses, tissues
  • Ignition source: electrocautery, sparks from drills or burrs, defibrillators, a light source, lasers
  • Oxidizer: Oxygen, room air, nitrous oxide

Sterile environments may come to mind when you think of an operating room. However, the materials used during surgery are the exact components required to create fire, causing damage to an immobilized patient on or around an operating table. According to the National Library of Medicine, most surgical fires are preventable, and their occurrence should be viewed as a never event. Surgical fires occur annually about as often as incorrect surgical site procedures.

Types of Surgical Burns in Oregon

Burns resulting from heat transfer or thermal contact may occur when a patient’s body comes in contact with medical equipment that produces heat. The heated equipment may ignite a fuel source on the patient, or the equipment may be inappropriately handled during surgery, resulting in burns to the patient’s skin. An examination of burns to patients occurring during surgery found that 85% of fires affected the head, neck, or upper chest, resulting from the ignition of the oxygen source used during oxygen delivery, and 81% of the incidents took place under monitored anesthesia care.

Chemical fires during surgery may result from the preparatory materials used on the skin before a surgical procedure begins. Alcohol may create a significant fire source when the skin of a patient is not allowed to dry completely before an ignition source is used in a surgical procedure.

Lasers during medical procedures allow patients to recover more quickly from surgery. However, equipment that has been improperly calibrated may lead to significant burns, scarring, or disfigurement. Electrical fires may also impose the risk of burns when an electrical current comes in contact with the patient or fuel sources in the surrounding area. Regardless of the type and degree of burn, these injuries may cause significant harm to a patient.

Secondary Complications from Surgery Burns

Smoke inhalation may result from a burn occurring during surgery, particularly when a fire ignites near the head. Infection is one of the most common side effects of burn injuries, which may arise at the burn site or result in sepsis. Infection due to staphylococcus is also a significant contributor to the loss of grafted skin.

Damaged tissue may require additional removal procedures of the affected area. Skin grafting surgeries may be required to repair damaged skin. Scarring and surgery to reduce their appearance may also be necessary.

Surgery Burns in the Pacific Northwest and Medical Malpractice

Medical practitioners are responsible for the safety of patients undergoing any treatment. Anesthesia may create an additional vulnerability in patients during surgery who are unable to respond to the dangers created by a fire during surgery in Oregon. Negligence may have led to your injuries and the damages you suffer. Contact our firm today to discuss your legal options concerning a burn during surgery in Oregon.