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December 1974

Ethylene Oxide BurnsA Hospital Outbreak Involving 19 Women

Author Affiliations

From the Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY (Dr. Biro); the Department of Dermatology, New York University Post-Graduate Medical School, New York City (Dr. Fisher); and Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, NY (Dr. Price).

Arch Dermatol. 1974;110(6):924-925. doi:10.1001/archderm.1974.01630120070017

Nineteen hospitalized women postoperatively suffered from severe burns of the buttocks and back from contact with reusable surgical gowns and drapes that had been sterilized with ethylene oxide and had not been properly aerated.

Initially, an "epidemic" of bullous impetigo was suspected. Severe irritant reactions to detergents and antiseptics were also considered. The burnt skin resembled a localized form of Lyell disease.

This report is to alert dermatologists so that prompt action may be taken to prevent widespread outbreaks of ethylene oxide burns.