The increasing use of lasers and electrosurgical instruments in the operating room is creating a fire hazard, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations warned. Fed by abundant flammable materials and a high concentration of oxygen, fires break out about 100 times a year in surgical suites and cause 20 serious injuries and one or two patient deaths each year, the JCAHO said. The commission called on providers to report surgical fires to its sentinel-event database as a means of raising awareness and preventing future fires. The statistics on fires were gathered from the Food and Drug Administration and from the independent research agency ECRI. The JCAHO's patient-safety reporting database includes only two cases of surgery-related fires since 1996. Organizations can help prevent fires by educating staff members about the importance of controlling heat sources such as lasers, high-intensity fiber-optic lights and electrosurgical devices, the JCAHO said. It also recommended that operating room staff allow sufficient time to prep patients with alcohol and other volatile agents and try to minimize the oxygen concentration under surgical drapes. Read the JCAHO alert. -- by John Morrissey
JCAHO warns about risk of surgical fires
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