Surgical Fires and Operative Burns: Lessons Learned From a 33-Year Review of Medical Litigation

Asad J. Choudhry, Nadeem N. Haddad, Mohammad A. Khasawneh, Daniel C. Cullinane, Martin D. Zielinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: We aimed to understand the setting and litigation outcomes of surgical fires and operative burns. Methods: Westlaw, an online legal research data-set, was utilized. Data were collected on patient, procedure, and case characteristics. Results: One hundred thirty-nine cases were identified; 114 (82%) operative burns and 25 (18%) surgical fires. Median plaintiff (patient) age was 46 (IQR:28-59). Most common site of operative burn was the face (26% [n = 36]). Most common source of injury was a high energy device (43% [n = 52]). Death was reported in 2 (1.4%) cases. Plaintiff age <18 vs age 18-50 and mention of a non-surgical physician as a defendant both were shown to be independently associated with an award payout (OR = 4.90 [95% CI, 1.23-25.45]; p = .02) and (OR = 4.50 [95% CI, 1.63-13.63]; p = .003) respectively. Plaintiff award payment (settlement or plaintiff verdict) was reported in 83 (60%) cases; median award payout was $215,000 (IQR: $82,000-$518,000). Conclusion: High energy devices remain as the most common cause of injury. Understanding and addressing pitfalls in operative care may mitigate errors and potentially lessen future liability. Level of evidence: III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgery
StateAccepted/In press - Jul 26 2016


  • Medical malpractice
  • Operative burns
  • Surgical fires
  • Westlaw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Surgical Fires and Operative Burns: Lessons Learned From a 33-Year Review of Medical Litigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this