Inside the renewed push to prevent surgical fires

A research organization is raising awareness for the potential dangers of flash fires that can break out in an operating room.
3:00 | 11/24/17

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Transcript for Inside the renewed push to prevent surgical fires
Turning now to "Gma investigates." A warning about fires in the O.R. Even during the most routine surgeries. The important questions you need to ask before you go under. Hi there, gio. Reporter: Hey there. Something as minor as a mole removal surgery could lead to a scary disaster. Fire on the operating table and right now we're getting a firsthand look at the shocking error. This morning "Gma investigates." We've heard the operating room horror stories, instruments left in patients, the wrong body part being operated on. But there's one medal error you may have never heard of that's instant and devastating. Surgical fires. Fire. Fire. That's when a patient undergoing surgery catches on fire on the operating table. Reporter: Katherine Reuter's mother was injured after going in for minor surgery. She was burned on her face, neck, shoulder, eyes and ear. Reporter: According to the hospital it ignited on her face. I couldn't believe in the U.S. We could set a patient on fire during surgery. Reporter: Reuter now uses her story to educate others through a website dedicated to prevention. We know how to prevent it and know what causes it. Reporter: Mark Bruley says most are sparked when oxygen pump to the patient meets an ignition source like a laser and some kind of fuel like fabric but points to a problem saying some patients don't even need this added oxygen and those who do are often pumped with higher concentratings than necessary. So here we're simulating with a mannequin. Reporter: "Gma investigates" had this fiery demonstration. He uses a material that acts like Hewlett skin over the surgical area. Oxygen flows to the mannequin through a nonflammable tube and once the oxygen builds up, watch what happens when the tool hits the skin. Whoa. Oxygen off, please. What we have is damage to the patient's skin. The fire also burned underneath and scorched other areas along the upper chest. Wow. And depending on the amount of oxygen, you could also wind up with burns to the cheek, the eyes, the chin, the nose. Reporter: Though there has been a nearly 65% decline in surgical fires over the last ten years, Bruley warns even one preventible accident in the operating room is too many. To those would say, you know what, all of these accidents are down dramatically what do you say? Certainly they're down. But the 20 or 30 patients a year who wind up with severely facial disfiguring injuries or the one or two patients a year who die that is not unimportant to them. Reporter: The council on surge cat and perioperative safety does not think oxygen during surgery should be regulated. That every patient who cops to the O.R. Is different and this issue should not be taken away from well-trained doctors and nurses. A few simple questions might make the difference. You as a patient could ask are you going to give me oxygen on my face? Do I really need it or can you get by with air? That is part of the process for eliminating this hazard. And the American society of anesthesiologists has been recognized for its efforts to educate the health care community about surgical fires and tell us that while anesthesia is safer than ever it continues as a top priority so patients really should ask whether that facility has a protocol or plan in place to identify and prevent these fires. Arm yourself with this information. Gio, thanks again for bringing that to our attention.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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