Surgical Fires Caused by Prepping Agents or Surgical Ointments

The English surgeon, Joseph Lister (1827-1912) is credited with being the first doctor to theorize that sterilizing agents would prevent surgical site infections and tissue decay.  Of course, we now know Lister was right and today's surgeons use a variety of skin preparation to prevent surgical site infections.  While sterilization of a surgical site is critical, the products do present a risk of fire if they are not properly used and managed.

Alcohol is extremely flammable, and it is often used as an antiseptic in surgical preparation. Other flammable prepping agents include aerosol adhesives, DuraPrep, Tinctures (benzoin with high levels of alcohol), numbing agents (ethyl chloride)  ChloraPrep, Prevail-FX, Collodin, Merthiolate and degreasers (ethyl and acetone). Likewise, a number of surgical ointments can be a fuel source including petroleum jelly, paraffin, Aeroplast, etc.  Again, the risk of these prepping agents and surgical ointments can be minimized with proper preventative measures including:

  • Allowing prepping solutions to dry before the introduction of any heat source such as an electrocautery device;
  • Closing open containers of flammable solutions and ointments;
  • Shaving the patient's skin to prevent prepping agents from pooling in hair;
  • Appropriately draping the patient so vapors do not accumulate or wick into the linens.

Surgical fires can often cause significant burns, and burns are some of the most painful injuries.  Even worse, the treatment for burns such as debridement can be more painful than the initial burn injury.  Burns can result in permanent scarring, loss of function and emotional problems (as the patient deals with the scarring and functional issues).

While there are an estimated 200-240 surgical fires per year in this country, most surgical fires can be prevented with proper training and procedures and good communication amongst members of the surgical team. So, if you or a loved one has been the victim of a surgical fire, one or more members of the surgical team may be to blame, and one of our experienced injury attorneys can help you pursue your right to compensation.

Medical malpractice cases can be complex as the attorney must know not only the law but also understand the underlying medicine. Hiring a lawyer who regularly handles medical malpractice cases can be critical to the outcome of your case. Not only is John Day board-certified in Medical Malpractice by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, but he also has testified in front of the Tennessee Legislature on changes to Tennessee's medical malpractice laws.  Best Lawyers has twice named John the Medical Malpractice Lawyer of the Year for Nashville.  In addition to having qualified attorneys, we also have a nurse on staff full-time to address medical issues and questions.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a surgical fire, contact one of our award-winning injury attorneys at one of our three Middle Tennessee locations.  We offer a free, no-obligation consultation so you can understand your legal options.  We handle all medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis so we only get paid if we recover money for you and your family. 

Nashville: 615-669-3993

Murfreesboro: 615-867-9900

Brentwood: 615-742-4880

Toll-Free: 866-812-8787

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