Surgical Fire Prevention Initiative to be Taken Over by Joint Commission

Amid continuing concerns about the risk of surgical fires in operating rooms, which occur with surprising frequency throughout the U.S., the FDA announced this week that The Joint Commission will now be overseeing the Preventing Surgical Fires Initiative program. 

The Preventing Surgical Fires Initiative was launched by the FDA in 2011, as a way to raise awareness of about operating room fires and help prevent them in the future.

The FDA announcement said the management of the program will now be handled by The Joint Commission and Dr. Gerard Castro will lead the initiative as the patient safety expert.

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The Joint Commission is a not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care groups and programs in the U.S. While it is independent and not a government organization, it’s certifications are widely recognized in the U.S. healthcare industry.

Surgical fires occur in, on, or around a patient who is undergoing a medical or surgical procedure. While the incidents are relatively rare, there are an estimated 550 to 650 surgical fires each year in the U.S. Many surgical fires cause serious injury to the patient, including disfigurement and even death. One to two surgical fire deaths occur per year.

Although the root causes of surgical fires are well-understood and preventable, they still occur quite frequently, and much more often than most patients would think.

Surgical fires are often started by a combination of electrosurgical tools, oxygen, and flammable hospital drapes. In fact, electrosurgical tools are involved in 70% of those fires, lasers cause another 10% of surgical fires.

Burns on the upper body or inside the patients airway account for about 65% of all operating room fire injuries. Another 25% occur elsewhere on the body and 10 percent happen inside the body cavity.

Organizations have developed tools, implemented strategies, and conducted education and outreach efforts to reduce the risk of fires.

When the Preventing Surgical Fires Initiative was launched the FDA hoped to increase awareness of factors that contribute to surgical fires, spread information concerning prevention tools, and promote the adoption of risk reduction practices. This mission will be carried on now by The Joint Commission.


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