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Surgical error leaves New York woman with a third-degree burn

A New York woman went into Crouse Hospital for a cesarean-section. She only expected to deliver a baby. Instead, she was left with a third-degree burn. Now the woman has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against her doctor and Crouse Hospital for the surgical error.

The incident occurred in 2010. As the woman was lying on an operating room table she began to smell something burning. Her doctor quickly realized that she was on fire. Although the doctor was able to put the fire out with his hand, she suffered a third-degree burn on her side that is 7 inches long and 5 inches wide.

The woman's baby was unharmed. However, the area where she was burned required plastic surgery. She says it still feels numb and sometimes feels like it is going to tear open.

The woman believes that doctors and nurses at the hospital failed to take precautions after using an alcohol-based antiseptic on her skin before the surgery. Just a month before the surgery, 3M Company, the maker of the antiseptic, warned hospitals that the solution is flammable but gave instructions on how to prevent surgical fires from occurring.

In many cases, fires can be prevented if the solution is allowed to dry. The solution can start on fire if it soaks into a hospital gown or surgery drapes or if the solution pools somewhere on the patient.

At the time of the fire, the woman's doctor was using an electrical cautery tool. A spark from the tool may have started the fire.

Surgical fires are rare. Of the 50 million surgeries that are performed each year in the United States, only 400 and 600 surgical fires are reported.

According to one source, officials at Crouse Hospital have apologized to the woman. However, her doctor has not yet offered an apology.

Source: The Post-Standard, "Woman's abdomen catches fire during C-section, as surgical tool ignites antiseptic," John O'Brien, April1, 2012

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