Bronx Man Burned in Surgical Fire
Enrique Ruiz was very sick when he went to the emergency room at New York City’s Lincoln Hospital in April. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and bronchitis. Less than a week later, he was being treated for second degree burns on his neck and chest.
Sunday’s New York Post reported on the ordeal by fire that Enrique Ruiz suffered at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. As doctors were trying to insert a breathing tube, Ruiz caught fire. The pain was severe enough that he woke up from sedation. An electronic scalpel being used to cut an opening in his neck combined with the oxygen he was being given causing a flash fire around the surgical site.
Mark Bruley, vice-president of investigations for the ECRI Institute, stated in the Post article that 500 to 600 surgical fires occur in the United States each year. The results can be serious or fatal. A spokesperson for the New York State Health Department (NYSDoH) states that the fire was originally reported as minor but additional information has now been provided. All injuries to patients are required to be reported to the DoH.
Causes of Surgical Fires
A fire needs oxygen, an ignitions source and fuel – something that will burn. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) points out that all of the requirements for a fire are routinely found in a surgical environment. The patient is supplied with oxygen. Alcohol skin preparations, anesthetics and surgical draping are among the fuels present. Ignition is provided by electronic surgical tools such as scalpels and lasers.
Other Surgical Fire Cases
Kira Reed was undergoing a cesarean-section in March 2010, according to the Syracuse, NY, Post-Standard. She was awake and smelled something burning. She was on fire. Her baby was delivered without injury but she suffered third degree burns to her side. An alcohol-based antiseptic skin preparation is being blamed.
In September 2009, Janice McCall died some six days after being burned by a fire on the operating table, MSNBC reports. While her death was ruled accidental, her family is pursuing legal action against Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion, Il.
In early December, 2011, two separate fires left two patients with severe burns to the face. ABC reports that Kim Grice was burned while undergoing an outpatient procedure in Crestview, Fl. Seattle’s qFox 13 has the story of Tommy Beams, who also suffered facial burns after a fire at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.
These fires are preventable, according to Mark Bruley in the Post. The FDA has a website with information for both patients and medical professionals on how to prevent surgical fires. The agency has no mandatory reporting requirement but does ask that voluntary reports of surgical fires be submitted.
This entry was posted on Monday, May 7th, 2012 at 7:08 pm and is filed under Firefighting, Medicine, Original writing, Original writing, Reporting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.