A critically ill baby undergoing a surgical procedure at the Duke University Hospital pediatric intensive care unit caught fire Monday afternoon. The patient sustained burns covering over 10 percent of its body, according to the News and Observer of Raleigh.
State regulators from the Division of Facilities Services initiated investigations for the cause of the fire Thursday.
The fire began as medical staff prepared to connect the child to equipment in the PICU, burning a sterile paper drape over the incision site, in addition to some fabric bedding and a blanket, said William Fulkerson, chief executive officer of the hospital, in an e-mail to the hospital's staff.
Jim Jones, spokesperson for DFS, said the hospital reported the incident Wednesday and does not know how long the investigations will take.
Suffering from severe heart and lung complications, the baby was in the PICU to be hooked up to an artificial lung machine, which can take over the work of the heart and lungs until the organs are capable of functioning on their own.
This treatment, called the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, involves a surgical procedure to insert tubes into large blood vessels, which pulls unoxygenated blood out from the patient and through the machine for oxygenation.
It was during the surgical procedure when the medical staff saw the fire, immediately responding by dousing it with sterile saline solution and extinguishing it within seconds, the hospital reported.
Fulkerson said the procedure and treatment is routinely performed in the PICU.
The affected equipment has been removed and is being evaluated to determine the cause of the fire, although the maintenance on the equipment involved was up to date at the time of the incident and had no recorded history of problems, Fulkerson said.
"The equipment has been tested and is functioning properly," he said.
According to the explicit wishes of the patient's parents, additional details regarding the child's information and current condition have not been released.
"The child's family was informed and provided with full details," said Fulkerson in the e-mail. "Our concerns and attention are being directed to serving the medical needs of the patient, and we are working to support the family."
Fulkerson added that the family will not be responsible for any medical costs associated with the incident, which comes almost four months after Hospital surgeons gave transplant patient Jésica Santilián a heart and lungs of the wrong blood type. Santilián's body rejected the organs, and she later died after a second transplant.
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