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February 7, 1977

Fire in the Operating Room Caused by Fluid From Suture Packet

Author Affiliations

Norristown, Pa

JAMA. 1977;237(6):531. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270330021007

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To the Editor.—  Fire in the modern operating room is rare. I wish to report a fire that occurred during an appendectomy and was caused by the fluid in which catgut sutures were packed.

Report of a Case.—  In the course of a difficult appendectomy, the scrub nurse held the retractor with one hand and at the same time (when able) broke sutures over a kidney basin adjacent to the operating field. The base of the appendix was cauterized by heat, and suddenly the entire operative field became enveloped in flames (including a portion of the drapes). The fire was quickly extinguished and produced only second-degree burns on the abdominal wall of the patient. The obvious cause was the catgut packing fluid (containing isopropyl alcohol), which had spilled from the nurse's basin and had soaked some of the sponges and drapes.This episode emphasized the well-known hazard of using inflammable