Fire in Patient’s Chest During Heart Surgery

If you saw a TV show or movie and during a surgery scene there were flames erupting from the patient’s chest, you probably would think, “That could never happen.” This recent article (Doctors Had to Put Out a Fire in Patient’s Chest During Open Heart Surgery) is one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” stories.

According to the article, the fire was the perfect storm of conditions: The surgery used an electrocautery device that uses heat to burn away or cut through human tissue; nearby was a dry surgical pack that carries sterilized surgical instruments; and the air in the patient’s ventilator was changed to 100 percent oxygen. A stray spark from the electrocautery device landed on the dry surgical pack and with all of that pure oxygen, a flash fire formed in the patient’s chest. The doctors were able to put out the fire quickly with no damage to the patient.

This idea could complicate a risky surgery in your story.


Complicate an already difficult surgery performed outside of the hospital.


Because it is such an unexpected and unforeseen event, if could provide a comic surprise in the right kind of comedic scene.

Who wants to talk more about how you can use this idea in your current or next story?

[Credit: flickr/National Library of Medicine]
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