February 14, 2017

Study: OR fires linked to alcohol-based skin preps

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

In this experimental study, alcohol-based skin preps fueled OR fires in common clinical scenarios.

No fires occurred with nonalcohol-based preps; however, alcohol-based preps caused flash flames at 0 minutes in 22% and at 3 minutes in 10% of tests. Pooling of alcohol-based preps caused fires in 38% at 0 minutes and 27% at 3 minutes.

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When manufacturer guidelines were followed and 3 minutes allowed for drying of the prep, surgical fires still occurred in 1 of 10 cases without pooling and in more than 25% of cases with pooling.

Surgeons can decrease the risk of OR fires by using nonalcohol-based skin preps or avoiding pooling of the prep solution, the authors say.


Alcohol-based skin preparationss fuel surgical fires. Pooling of alcohol-based skin preparations can result in widespread flames that will not self-extinguish. Surgeons can decrease the risk of an operating room fire by using non-alcohol based skin preparations or avoiding pooling of the preparation solution.


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