from Burns Received in Nebraska Operating Room Fire
November 30, 2004
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- An 86-year-old woman
has died one month after receiving severe burns to her head, neck
and shoulders in a hospital operating room fire.
The patient, Maxine Stryker received
the burns that took her life during what should have been a routine
biopsy procedure at Methodist Hospital in Omaha.
A malpractice lawsuit has been filed
against the hospital, surgeons and anesthesiologist, said Stryker's
attorney, Michael Dowd.
Bed linens or a neck roll supporting
her head caught fire during a routine procedure, causing Stryker's
head, neck and shoulders to be engulfed in flames, Dowd said. ``Her
burns were absolutely horrendous.'' he said.
Dowd said Stryker checked into the
hospital for a bowel obstruction and a colonoscopy. Doctors then
scheduled a cervical mediastinoscopy, a procedure commonly used
when doctors want to test lymph nodes for cancer.
Dowd said Stryker was unconscious during
the Oct. 22 procedure. He said medical records indicate that a cautery
unit - a device that uses intense heat to stanch blood or destroy
tissue - was used to cut through fatty tissue.
At some point, the records indicate
that doctors noticed an odd smell.
``It became apparent that there was
a wisp of smoke coming from behind the patient's head,'' Dowd said,
citing medical records.
Stryker's burns were so severe that
she had to undergo extensive skin grafts and developed pneumonia
from being bedridden for four days, Dowd said.
Methodist spokesman Ed Rider said the
hospital is still investigating the fire. However, he said, he has
"no evidence that (the fire) was caused by an equipment malfunction."
Rider called it an "unfortunate
accident." He said hospital officials couldn't comment further
because of the pending litigation.
"We are . . . upset and saddened
by Mrs. Stryker's death this morning," he said, "and we
do send out our deepest condolences to her family."
Such fires are rare, though they may
Hospitals have not been required to
keep statistics on operating-room fires. Only about 100 to 200 fires
are reported nationally each year. There are about 50 million inpatient
and outpatient surgeries performed each year.
Even so, the Joint Commission on the
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued a warning last
year about the potentially combustible combination of oxygen, flammable
linens and flame-starters, such as cautery devices or lasers, in
operating rooms. The national group said fires cause 20 serious
injuries and one or two patient deaths a year.