Too Common—Burn Injuries Caused by Warming Devices
A post-operative warming blanket or device offers comfort and helps maintain a stable body temperature which reduces discomfort and speeds healing. Yet used incorrectly, these devices deliver heat that can cause a serious thermal burn.
An iatrogenic injury is a wound to tissue or an organ that is caused by medical treatments unrelated to the ailment for which a patient seeks treatment. Most patients do not consider they are at risk of serious burns as a result of medical imaging, surgery, or in the recovery room. Burns can occur through a malfunctioning device or poor nursing care including:
- Hot liquids: Hot beverages or other solutions that spill upon a patient can cause serious burns, especially in the elderly.
- Machine burns: Burns can occur from technologies like magnetic resonance imaging machines (MRI). MRI machines are used for guidance and interventional procedures as well as imaging. When used incorrectly, the machine can heat focused areas of the body causing serious thermal burn, or hearing loss due to the noise within the machine. A study in the International Journal of Medical Physics Research and Practice notes thermal burns are the most common cause of serious injury from the machines. Burns from lasers used in various types of treatments can also cause painful injury.
- Warming blankets: Warming blankets are typically used after a surgical procedure to restore circulation and quicken the healing process. Warming blankets are compound devices that use blown air to warm a blanket that is used on patients who require brief warming or warming for longer periods. When the hose used on the device separates from the blanket, it can blow heated air directly onto a surgical site or other parts of the body—causing serious burns that may require additional surgeries and skin grafts to heal.
- Surgical fires: As odd as it seems, fires in the operating theater occur. Often the patient is already under anesthesia and the surgical team must move quickly to squelch a fire that may occur from an overheated or defective device, or set surgical drapery aflame. Patients awake to find their procedure may have been canceled and their body has been burned.
- Chemical burns: Like hot liquids, spilled or inappropriate application of chemicals on or in the skin can cause permanent injury or disability.
- Hot packs: Poorly placed hot packs laid directly on fragile skin can overheat and cause burns when unattended.
Burns are dangerous, painful, and potentially disabling. If you suffer a burn while seeking medical care—speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
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