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Anesthesiology. 2004 May;100(5):1167-71.

Laser ignition of surgical drape materials in air, 50% oxygen, and 95% oxygen.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Box 6, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, 450 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11203, USA.



Operating room fires fueled by surgical drapes and ignited by high-energy surgical tools in air and oxygen-enriched atmospheres continue to occur.


The authors examined the time to ignition of huck towels and three commonly used surgical drape materials in air, 50% oxygen, and 95% oxygen using a carbon dioxide surgical laser as an ignition source. In addition, a phenol-polymer fabric was tested.


In air, polypropylene and phenol polymer do not ignite. For polypropylene, the laser instantly vaporized a hole, and therefore, interaction between the laser and material ceased. When tested in combination with another material, the polypropylene time to ignition assumed the behavior of the material with which it was combined. For phenol polymer, the laser did not penetrate the material. Huck towels, cotton-polyester, and non-woven cellulose-polyester ignited in air with decreasing times to ignition. All tested materials ignited in 50% and 95% oxygen.


The results of this study reveal that with increasing oxygen concentration, the time to ignition becomes shorter, and the consequences become more severe. The possibility exists for manufacturers to develop drape materials that are safer than existing materials.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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