Surgical Fires in Otolaryngology: A Systematic and Narrative Review

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Abstract

Objective

To bring attention to the epidemiology, prevention, management, and consequences of surgical fires in otolaryngology by reviewing the literature.

Data Sources

PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Scopus.

Review Methods

Comprehensive search terms were developed, and searches were performed from data source inception through August 2016. A total of 4506 articles were identified; 2351 duplicates were removed; and 2155 titles and abstracts were independently reviewed. Reference review was also performed. Eligible manuscripts described surgical fires involving patients undergoing otolaryngologic procedures.

Results

Seventy-two articles describing 87 otolaryngologic surgical fire cases were identified. These occurred during oral cavity or oropharyngeal procedures (11%), endoscopic laryngotracheal procedures (25%), tracheostomies (36%), “other” general anesthesia procedures (3%), and monitored anesthesia care or local procedures (24%). Oxidizing agents consisted of oxygen alone (n = 63 of 81, 78%), oxygen and nitric oxide (n = 17 of 81, 21%), and room air (n = 1 of 81, 1%). The fractional inspired oxygen delivered was >30% in 97% of surgical fires in non–nitrous oxide general anesthesia cases (n = 35 of 36). Laser-safe tubes were used in only 12% of endoscopic laryngotracheal cases with endotracheal tube descriptions (n = 2 of 17). Eighty-six percent of patients experienced acute complications (n = 76 of 87), including 1 intraoperative death, and 22% of patients (n = 17 of 77) experienced long-term complications.

Conclusion

Surgical fires in otolaryngology persist despite aggressive multi-institutional efforts to curb their incidence. Guideline recommendations to minimize the concentration of delivered oxygen and use laser-safe tubes when indicated were not observed in many cases. Improved institutional fire safety practices are needed nationally and internationally.

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