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August 31 - Newsblog #1
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Homeowner and Wife Sue over Police Shooting
September 7 - Newsblog #2
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Homeowner’s Possession of Handgun Legal Under 2nd Amendment
September 14 - Newsblog #3
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: if a Government or Government Agency is at Fault, You Can Sue
September 21 - Newsblog #4
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Lawsuit Against Police Department Invokes the Civil Rights Act
September 28 - Newsblog #5
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: a Clear Line from the Action – or Inaction – to the Injury
October 12 - Newsblog #6
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Police Insensitivity Turns Traffic Stop into a Travesty
October 19 - Newsblog #7
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Police Who Abuse Power Must Be Held Accountable, Law Professor States
October 26 - Newsblog #8
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Holding Overly Aggressive Police Accountable
November 2 - Newsblog #9
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Brown Vs. Impd Case About Much More Than Punishment or Money
November 9 - Newsblog #10
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Improper Medical Diagnosis and Care Resulted in Loss of an Eye
November 16 - Newsblog #11
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Medical Malpractice Claims Have a Front End and a Back End
November 30 - Newsblog #12
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Truths About Medical Malpractice
December 7 - Newsblog #13
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Yes, You Can Sue City Hall
December 14 - Newsblog #14
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Slip and Fall Changes Two Lives Forever
December 28 - Newsblog #15
In the News: Ramey & Hailey Year in Review
January 4 - Newsblog #16
In the News: Teen’s Sexual Abuse Case Calls Attention to the Problem
January 11 - Newsblog #17
In the News: Parents of Survivor Sue Parents of Shooter
January 18 - Newsblog #18
In the News: Erin Brockovich Teams Up with Indiana Moms
January 25 - Newsblog #19
Your Injury Attorneys in the News: Case Settled in Favor of Catastrophic Slip and Fall Injury Victim
January 31 - Newsblog #20
In the News: Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Rehab Facility
February 8 - Newsblog #21
In the News: Nurse Arrested in Sexual Abuse Case
February 15 - Newsblog #22
In the News: Running the Clock on Indiana Medical Malpractice
February 22 - Newsblog #23
In the News: to Repeal or Not to Repeal – Indiana Legislators Rule “not”
March 1 - Newsblog #24
In the News: Helping Physicians Keep Helping
March 8 - Newsblog #25
In the News: Parents of Brain-damaged Infant Sue Hospital
March 15 - Newsblog #26
In the News: Owner of Gun Wins Decision
March 22 - Newsblog #27
In the News: Indiana House Passes Long Term Care Protections Bill
April 5 - Newsblog #28
In the News: Slip-and-fall Victim Wins Right to Sue Dollar Tree
April 12 - Newsblog #29
In the News: Inspection Report Shows Vets Harmed at 52 Nursing Homes
April 19 - Newsblog #30
In the News: Sandwich Diversion Causes Fatal Two-semitrailer Crash
April 26 - Newsblog #31
In the News: Does Premises Liability Cover Goose Attacks?
May 10 - Newsblog #32
Two-week-old N.y. Verdict Offers Takeaways for Slip and Fall Victims
May 17 - Newsblog #33
In the News: Barrel Blast Triggers Wrongful Death Lawsuit
May 24 - Newsblog #34
In the News: when a Product Manufacturer is Not at Fault
May 31 - Newsblog #35
In the News – College Doc’s Sexual Abuse of Students Coming to Light
June 7 - Newsblog #36
In the News – One Week, Four Motorcycle Accidents
June 14 - Newsblog #37
List of Troubled Nursing Homes Released
June 21 - Newsblog #38
In the News: Kansas No-caps Ruling Changes Personal Injury Climate
June 28 - Newsblog #39
In the News: Jury Awards $10.5 Million for Pain and Suffering in Birth Injury Case
July 5 - Newsblog #40
In the News: More Indicted in Last Year’s Duck Boat Tragedy
July 17 - Newsblog #41
In the News: Richard Hailey on Litigation Team for Lawsuit Vs. Tesla
July 24 - Newsblog #42
In the News: Malpractice Lawsuit Yields Largest Award in History
August 28 - Newsblog #43
In the News: Trucks V. Passenger Cars – Score 18:116. Everybody Loses
December 4 - Newsblog #44
In the News: High School Chaplain Suspended on Allegations of Sexual Abuse
December 11 - Newsblog #45
In the News: Franklin, Indiana Continues to Face Toxic Waste Problem
December 11 - Newsblog #46
In the News: Franklin, Indiana Continues to Face Toxic Waste Problem
December 18 - Newsblog #47
In the News: Parents of Bus Accident Victim Awarded $20 Million
January 8 - Newsblog #48
In the News: Parents Sue After Daughter’s Brain Damaged in Surgery
January 10 - Newsblog #49
In the News: Trucking Accidents Due to Careless Driving Increase
January 29 - Newsblog #50
In the News: Trucking Accidents Due to Careless Driving Increase
February 19 - Newsblog #51
Indiana Authorities Buy More Time to Prosecute Child Abusers
February 26 - Newsblog #52
In the News: Teen Brain-injured at Birth Awarded $15.1 Million
March 4 - Newsblog #53
In the News: Did Connecticut School Officials Turn a Deaf Ear to Sexual or Physical Abuse?
March 18 - Newsblog #54
In the News: Facility Held to Blame for Medical Treatment Delivered in a Careless and Negligent Manner
April 1 - Newsblog #55
In the News: Emergency Measures Instituted in Indiana’s Judicial System
April 8 - Newsblog #56
In the News: Medical Malpractice Limits Challenged in California
April 15 - Newsblog #57
In the News: Indiana Supreme Court Issues Five Orders for Legal Proceedings
May 13 - Newsblog #58
In the News: Physician Not Negligent in Choosing One Treatment over Another
May 20 - Newsblog #59
In the News: Nursing Homes with Covid-19 Cases Have Been Violating Federal Infection Control Rules for Years

Medical Malpractice Newsletter

Flash Fires During Surgery Lead to Injuries, Death

A surgical patient likely never considers the risk of being injured in a fire during an operation. Failure by nurses, doctors, or anesthesiologists to follow the recommended safety protocol to avoid fire ignition could result in serious injury or even death to a patient in the event of a fire during surgery.

Surgical fires can occur when heat, air, and fuel are simultaneously present during a surgery. These three elements combine to provide an environment in which a fire can ignite. Heat, air, and fuel are present in most operating rooms in some of the following forms:

  • Common sources of heat include electrical surgical tools, defibrillators, drills and burs, heated probes, or surgical lasers.
  • A common source of air is oxygen, which is used as part of the mix for anesthesia.
  • Common sources of fuel include hair on the face, body, or scalp; GI tract gases; aerosol adhesives; alcohol (used as a prepping agent); gowns, hoods and caps; mattresses, pillows, blankets, and drapery; surgical sponges; gauze; and ointments.

In the past, surgical fires were thought to occur 50 to 100 times a year; a relatively low number given that 50 million surgeries are performed annually in the United States. However, a 2007 study by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System shows the incidence of surgical flash fires to be much higher than originally thought. Research shows that of all 2007 Pennsylvania surgeries, one out every 87,646 operations involved a surgical fire. These figures reflect that Pennsylvania alone had 28 surgical fires in 2007. Thus, in extrapolating the data, the research indicates that between 550 and 650 surgical patients are affected every year by a surgical fire. In addition, out of that group, as much as 20 or 30 of those individuals may face serious burns, with a handful even dying from injuries sustained in the fire.

Another area of concern is that the figures regarding the number of surgical fires in a year are not exact because there is no national mandate for health officials to report surgical fires. The 2007 Pennsylvania study was made possible because Pennsylvania requires the reporting of such incidents. As quoted by HealthNewsDigest.com, Dr. Jan Ehrenwerth, professor at the Yale University School of Medicine and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), stated that “We think there is a lot of underreporting and a lot of near misses.” The Food and Drug Administration does maintain data on circumstances where equipment failure is suspected as the cause of a surgical fire. These numbers are often low because device failure is typically not the cause for such fires. Thus, surgical fires could be even more prevalent than the data from the Pennsylvania study suggests.

When patients are injured by a surgical fire, typically 65 percent of them face injury to their upper body or to the inside of their airways. Another 25 percent of patients are typically injured on their body. The remaining 10 percent of patients endure injuries to the inside of their body.

Preventing Surgical Fires

Hospitals can take steps to reduce the risk of a fire occurring during surgery. One available precaution is to ensure that all surgical staff, including nurses, doctors, and anesthesiologists are trained in the proper actions to take in preventing fire. Hospitals might also engage in regular fire drills to establish and maintain preparedness for such an emergency. The ASA also released guidelines for dealing with surgical fires. Regular drills are included among their recommendations. The ASA also recommends various preventative measures, such as avoiding use of ignition sources in an oxygen rich environment, stopping the use of nitrous oxide, or allowing sufficient drying time for flammable skin prepping agents (such as alcohol).

When a surgical team fails to follow the recommended precautions or when a fire results despite a team taking precautions, the resulting surgical fire can cause great harm to the patient. In one instance in Maryland, Msnbc.com reports that a 74 year old woman was injured when a topical cleaner that had not been allowed to completely dry was ignited by a cauterizing tool. The woman suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her face. As a result of this surgical fire and the resulting burns, the woman faced terrible pain, as well as infections and kidney failure. Two years later, the woman died having never fully recovered from her injuries. The patient’s estate sued the hospital and received a confidential settlement.

In two other incidents, USNews.com reports surgical fires involving children. In one operation in North Carolina, a newborn was burned during surgery. In California, an 8 year- old boy was injured during a tonsillectomy when his breathing tube ignited. The boy suffered injuries to his mouth, throat, and lungs.

These examples highlight the possibility that surgical fires can occur, even during routine surgeries, and that they do pose a real risk of which patients may not be aware. If you think that you or a loved one may have suffered an injury from a surgical fire, it is recommended that you contact knowledgeable legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve any rights that you or your loved one may have.

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  • Medical Malpractice and Informed Consent
    Prior to initiating any medical procedure, a health care provider should obtain the patient’s “informed consent.” What constitutes informed consent varies from state to state, but usually includes a discussion with the... Read more.
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