HEALTHY LIVING
12/01/2011 06:27 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2011

Woman's Face Catches On Fire During Routine Surgery

Kim Grice, a 29-year-old mother of three, endured a situation most have only seen on TV.

While having cysts removed from her head at the North Okaloosa Medical Center in Crestview, Fla., Grice's face erupted in flames in a phenomenon known as a flash fire, ABC News reported.

While the source of the fire is currently under investigation, ECRI Institute vice president for accident and forensic investigation Mark Bruley told ABC News the occurrence is not uncommon.

"There are between 550 and 650 surgical fires a year," Bruley told ABC, adding fewer than 30 of them cause injury.

Grice was airlifted from the medical center to the University of South Alabama Burn Unit on Tuesday morning, according to the Crestview Bulletin.

"I am in shock. This is not what happens with a routine outpatient surgery," Kim's mother, Ann Grice, told the paper "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."

North Okaloosa Medical Center spokeswoman Rachel Neighbors released an official statement about the incident to the Northwest Florida Daily News:

"We are conducting a thorough review to fully understand what happened in a deliberate effort to prevent such an event from occurring again. Our highest priority is always the safety of our patients."

Whether or not Grice and her family will be suing the center remains to be seen.

MSNBC reported that more than half of surgical fires happen inside a patient's airway or on the patient's upper body, while a quarter of surgical fires happen on other parts of the body. Fewer than 10 percent of surgical fires actually happen within the body cavity.

MSNBC reports the tools linked with igniting surgical fires:

About 70 percent are ignited by electrosurgical tools commonly known as Bovies, devices that use a high-frequency electric current to cut tissue or stop bleeding. Twenty percent of fires are sparked by hot wires, light sources, burrs or defibrillators. About 10 percent are touched off by lasers.

In 2007, Swedish news source The Local reported that a 40-year-old woman caught fire during an operation to remove hemorrhoids. The flammable antiseptic solution came into contact with the electrical current being used for her electrosurgery; the woman survived, but had to be treated for burns, The Local reported.

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