Kiwi surgeon found in breach after man's leg catches fire during operation

The Health and Disability Commissioner says the surgeon failed to properly care for the man.
The Health and Disability Commissioner says the surgeon failed to properly care for the man. Photo credit: Getty

A Kiwi surgeon has been reprimanded for accidentally setting fire to a man's leg during a knee operation.

Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill released a report on Monday, finding the orthopaedic surgeon and the Wairarapa District Health Board failed to care for the man.

Hill said the surgeon applied an antiseptic called betadine, and alcohol, on the edge of the man's wound.

According to Hill, the surgeon then applied diathermy, or electrically induced heat, without waiting for the alcohol solution to dry first.

"As a result, the man's leg caught fire and sustained burns," Hill said.

"The fire was a service failure directly attributable to the DHB as a service provider."

Mr A, as the patient is identified in the report, was discharged on September 11, 2017. At the time, it was unclear whether the burns he had sustained were full thickness.

By September 19, it became obvious they were full thickness, and the patient was referred to a burns unit.

Hill believed the surgeon breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights, due to the doctor's failure to follow guidelines. As a result, the patient underwent debridement - the process where damaged tissue is removed from a wound - and remained in hospital for a week.

"While the guideline did not discuss specific fire hazards, it did state that alcohol-based solutions must not have contact with diathermy plates.

"The surgeon failed to provide care to the man with reasonable care and skill."

Mr A said he trusts that correct procedures would now be implemented as a result of the incident, according to the report.


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