A fire broke out during a minor operation, causing severe burns to the patient's face and neck. Although fires occurring during surgery are not common, this was far from an isolated incident.
On Tuesday morning, 29-year-old Kim Grice of Holt, Florida went to the North Okaloosa Medical Center in Crestview, Alabama for what could only be described as routine surgery. The mother of three was having cysts removed from her head.
The procedure proved to be anything but ordinary. While Grice was unconscious and the cysts were being removed, a flash fire broke out. Although firefighters were called, the fire quickly fizzled. But not before Grice suffered serious burns to her face and neck.
She was moved to the medical center's emergency room, stabilized, and then airlifted to the burn unit at the University of South Alabama in Mobile and Grice was able to speak with family members that evening. Her mother, Ann Grice, told the Destin Log her daughter said, They woke me up and every one around me was hysterical. I don't know what happened to me.
Shortly after the operation that went wrong, the North Okaloosa Medical Center issued the following statement: The hospital deeply regrets today's event in which a patient sustained burns during a procedure in our ambulatory surgery center. The staff took immediate steps to respond, including moving the patient to the hospital's emergency department. The hospital added they are undertaking a full review in order to prevent a recurrence of what happened.
Not all states are required to report surgical fires but it is estimated there are between 550 and 650 incidents every year in the United States. Most of these fires occur when surgery is being performed on the head or neck. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), three elements are necessary for a surgical fire to break out. There must be an ignition system, an oxidizer, and a fuel source.
The ignition system is a medical instrument such as a laser that can give off a spark. The oxidizer is usually oxygen or nitrous oxide but in rare circumstances, ordinary room air is sufficient to fulfill this requirement. The fuel source can be surgical drapes or substances applied to the skin that are alcohol based. The combination of the three elements can, and have, proven to be deadly in some cases.
The FDA considers surgical fires to be preventable. Last October 13, the agency launched an initiative to increase awareness within the medical community and to urge them to adopt risk reduction practices.