Fire Erupts on Woman’s Face During Routine Surgery

Dec 1, 2011 11:43am

A Florida woman was rushed by helicopter to an Alabama burn center after her face caught fire during routine surgery.

Kim Grice, a 29-year-old mother of three, was having cysts removed from her head at an outpatient surgery center in Crestview, Fla., when the flash fire erupted.

“A flash fire is basically a fire that flashes up and then goes out,” Crestview Fire Department Chief Joseph Traylor told ABC News. “The fire was already out when our staff arrived.”

Grice was treated at the North Okaloosa Medical Center before being flown 90 miles to the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala., with burns to her face and neck.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. But surgical fires are usually sparked by heat, often from tools like lasers, and then fueled by alcohol, surgical drapes and oxygen. Grice was wearing a non-rebreathable oxygen mask, according to Traylor.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched an initiative to curb surgical fires through increasing awareness and promoting risk reduction practices.

“There are between 550 and 650 surgical fires a year,” said Mark Bruley, vice president for accident and forensic investigation for the ECRI Institute, adding that fewer than 30 of them result in patient injuries.

The frequency of fires is on par with other surgical mishaps, like wrong-site surgery or retained instruments, according to the ECRI Institute.

Grice’s mother, Ann, was waiting for her during the outpatient procedure, the Crestview News Bulletin reported.

“I am in shock. This is not what happens with a routine outpatient surgery,” she told the Bulletin. “She had headaches and the doctor was going to remove three cysts and biopsy them but something went bad wrong and my daughter is now in a burn unit with burn specialists and I still do not know what happened. No one will tell me why or how this happened to her.”

Grice was in stable condition and talking to her family when she was transferred to the Alabama burn center, according to Rachel Neighbors, a spokeswoman for the North Okaloosa Medical Center.

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