On fire
© APSF A picture from the US anaesthesia patient safety foundation.
Doctors in Tromsø set fire to a patient who was undergoing a heart operation, causing her to wake up with third degree burns.

After spraying the patient with surgical alcohol to disinfect an open would, they then began to use an electrical scalpel, which unfortunately ignited the fluid.

"We are talking about a rare but very unfortunate incident," said Dr Rolf Busund, clinical manager at the University Hospital of Northern Norway, where the operation took place. "This event is a clear reminder that although our procedures are very good, such things still happen."

He said that ignition was a known risk when using electrical scalpels in conjunction with disinfectants.

"During my 25 to 26 years at the hospital, I've never heard of a similar incident. However, the literature says that the use of disinfectants with diathermy can cause ignition. Last year there were some 100 instances of this in the United States."