Brief laboratory report: Surgical drape flammability

Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Nurse Anesthesia, USA.
AANA journal 11/2006; 74(5):352-4.
Source: PubMed


Fires in the operating room continue to present a hazard to patients, at times with catastrophic and debilitating results. Recent data from closed claim files reveal oxygen, electrosurgical unit (ESU), and surgical drapes are common components of the fire triangle in the operating room. In this era of biotechnological sophistication, why are surgical drapes flammable? The purpose of this study was to test the flammability of different surgical drape materials and to determine the time to ignition using a bipolar ESU device in 21%, 35%, and 100% oxygen concentrations. Results show that regardless of oxygen concentration surgical drapes, when exposed to close contact with the ESU, are flammable. Time to ignition decreases with increasing concentrations of oxygen as expected. One of the surgical drapes tested was advertised to the hospital as nonflammable. Future research should focus on surgical drape materials and aim to reduce the flammability of such items in the operating room.

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