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Anesthesiologists link lasers to O.R. fire surge

Article-Anesthesiologists link lasers to O.R. fire surge

Park Ridge, Ill. — The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), based here, will issue its first guidelines aimed at preventing fires during surgical procedures, reports the Associated Press.

The medical group is taking this step, says AP, because it believes incidents involving fires during surgical procedures have increased over the past 20 years due largely to the increasing use of lasers and other devices that use electrical current.

According to the AP report, ECRI Institute, a nonprofit health research agency, estimates that there are 50 to 100 fires that occur during 50 million surgeries performed in the United States each year. Such fires kill one to two people annually, and 20 percent of patients involved suffer serious, disfiguring injuries, according to ECRI, which investigates medical procedures and devices.

Most fires are caused when oxygen builds up under surgical drapes during the use of electric surgical tools that cut or remove tissue or control bleeding, according to ECRI.

The ASA’s proposed guidelines will include lowering the concentration of oxygen given to patients during surgery by diluting it with room air when electrical surgical devices are in use. Other suggestions are to reconfigure drapes to minimize oxygen build-up and to use suction devices to remove excess oxygen from surgery sites.

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