New Safety Recommendations for Warming Head Drapes in OR

Venting, lifting the drape often, and using a blower may reduce fire risk in patients during anesthesia

FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Use of head drapes for maintaining a patient's normothermia may present a fire risk, which may be minimized by following recommended appropriate safety measures, according to a study published in the June issue of the AORN Journal.

Katie Chapp, R.N., and Linda Lange, R.N., of the Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, examined whether the use of a polyethylene warming blanket head drape on intubated patients increased the risk of ignition in the presence of an undetected anesthesia system gas leak. An intubation mannequin was used as a mock patient and strategies were proposed for maintaining a patient's normothermia within a safe perioperative nursing environment.

The investigators identified several significant factors that can lead to the accumulation of oxidizers, including increased oxygen flow rate, presence and application of a head drape, and not using a warming blanket blower. The researchers suggested that, when using a head drape, the surgical team should cut a fenestration in the drape around the endotracheal tube or otherwise vent the drape, use a blanket blower, and have the anesthesia care provider lift the head drape frequently for drape ventilation to minimize the accumulation of trapped gases.

"A slow endotracheal tube leak can cause the unsafe accumulation of oxygen in an enclosed environment in as little as five to 10 minutes. To interrupt the oxidizer element of the fire triangle, it is imperative that when a head drape is used, steps be taken to minimize the fire risk," the authors write.

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