How Common Are Operating Room Fires?

Operating room (OR) fires are very rare, but this type of event does occur often enough to be recognized as a real danger. According to data prepared by various patient safety organizations, 50 to 100 surgical fires occur each year. Other research places the number closer to 500. Operating room fires might originate with equipment in the room, contact between a heat source and flammable materials or even in or on the patient who is in the OR for surgery.

More facts about operating room fires:

  • Electrosurgical equipment is one of the main causes of operating room fires, with a report by the Emergency Care Research Institute reporting that equipment of this type was involved in 68% of the incidents.

  • Fire sites often occur on the patient, with the face, neck, head and upper chest being the most common areas affected. In many cases, the use of supplemental oxygen was a factor in the initiation of the fires.

  • Operating room fires sometimes occur before the patient is wheeled into the operating room. Often, injuries that occur as because of these fires are kept to a minimum, although a few fatalities resulting from operating room fires are on record.

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