WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A doctor in Australia is issuing a warning to her peers about the danger of fires in the operating room after a patient’s chest cavity caught on fire during open-heart surgery.
- The patient is a 60-year-old man with a tear in the inner wall of his aorta, who is also suffering from a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had had coronary artery bypass grafting a year before.
- During the operation, an electric device used to cauterize the man’s wounds spark ignited a “dry surgical pack,” causing a “flash fire” in the man’s chest cavity but the fire was quickly put out, and the man was uninjured.
A 60-year-old patient, who had previously been treated for pulmonary disease at a different hospital, was having emergency surgery to repair a small tear in his aorta when a complication occurred. The patient had an enlarged right lung, with several permanent air pockets known as bullae.
The lung had stuck to his sternum, which the surgeons needed to crack through to get to his heart. However, they accidentally punctured one of the bullae in the lung, causing a “substantial air leak.”
To counteract this, the flow of oxygen in the anesthetic inhalant was increased by 100 percent. But it turned out to be a big leak. The doctors were able to smell the sevoflurane anesthetic as it seeped into the air through the patient’s lung.
That sevoflurane was now mixed with a strong concentration of highly oxidizing oxygen, making the conditions volatile. At the time, the team was also using an electrocautery device — a surgical tool that uses heat to seal (or cauterize) wounds.
Apparently, the device was sitting a bit too close to a dry surgical pack near the patient’s chest. When a spark from the electrocautery device landed on the dry surgical pack in the highly oxygenated air, the whole thing burst into flames, Science Alert reports.
It was an unusual event, but it was not the first time. There were seven other case reports where a chest cavity fire had broken out during surgery with all of them having the same elements in common — a patient with underlying lung disease, electrocautery devices, dry surgical packs and An increased flow of oxygen in the anesthetic.
It is what Dr. Ruth Shaylor and her colleagues from Austin Health in Melbourne, Australi have presented at the European Society of Anaesthesiology’s annual conference this week.
The patient emerged unscathed from his fiery experience.
The fire was “immediately extinguished without any injury to the patient,” the doctors reported at the Euroanaesthesia Congress in Vienna.
“The rest of the operation proceeded uneventfully and he had a successful debranching repair of his ascending aorta and arch.”
Source: Science Alert