Flatulence Blamed for Surgical Fire which Left Woman with Devastating Burns

A patient was left with life-changing burns after a fire started on her body during laser surgery, according to a report from a university hospital in Tokyo.


Surgical spirit: a woman was left with burns after a fire broke out while she was on the operating table. (Getty)

The woman in her thirties, who has not been named, was undergoing a laser operation on the lower half of her body when she passed gas and a fire was ignited.

The fire that occurred at the Tokyo Medical University Hospital in Shinjuku Ward on 15 April this year left the patient with burns on her waist and legs.

She is understood to have been undergoing a laser procedure on her cervix when the fire broke out and spread to the surgical drape.

A report released by the hospital on 28 October found that the equipment used in the operation was functioning normally and that no flammable materials were in theatre.

“When the patient’s intestinal gas leaked into the space of the operation, it ignited with the irradiation of the laser and the burning spread, eventually reaching the surgical drape and causing the fire,” the report said, according to Japanese daily newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

Surgical fire

Lasers are known to have the potential to ignite fires during surgery with more than 100 such incidences reported in the US annually. There are considered a particular risk during airway surgery.

But fire during surgery remains “very uncommon” says Dr David West of Veincentre Ltd. ” Special care must be taken if there’s fuel, such as methane, which can be in intestinal gas, or in farts, or in alcohol that is used to clean skin,” he said.

“If you smell a fart it is best to wait until the gas has dispersed and can’t ignite before using the laser.”

Dr Harry Thompson, an Anaesthetic Registrar at Imperial Healthcare Anaesthetics, London, told i: It’s very rare. Can happen in the mouth too with dry swabs etc. My colleague, with 30 years of lasers has seen it once.

“If you think about it all the components for a fire are there. A spark (the laser) some fuel (the methane) and oxygen (always lots of oxygen around in theatre). The skin preparation products are also very flammable. There are usually lots of safety mechanisms in place during laser surgery. Rarely, these are not enough.”

The benefits of using lasers in surgery include precision, reduced damage to surrounding tissue, lesser blood loss, swelling and reduced recovery time. However, lasers create enough heat to to pose flammability hazards and so hospitals need to maintain strict procedures to prevent fire.

Fire prevention

This includes removing dry materials, substances containing alcohol and having a fire extinguisher on hand.

“Consequences of a surgical fire can be deadly. Fires can occur in any setting where invasive procedures are performed,” according to Leonard Morse who writes in Hospital report, Surgical Fires: Learn Not to Burn.

“The basic principle to remember is that people start most fires, and people can prevent them. Fire safety training is essential so that staff members recognize the elements of the fire triangle and how these elements come together every day in their practice.”


Source: i News



Flatulence Blamed for Surgical Fire which Left Woman with Devastating Burns

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