Sunday, August 26, 2007

One more thing to worry about

Historically, one of the biggest worries in the operating room was fire. Early anesthetics, although effective, were highly flammable and it was not unheard of for surgical cases to end with fire or even an explosion. Although modern anesthetic gases are not flammable, there are still fire hazards in the modern O.R. such as electrocautery and lasers. My anesthesia textbook, however, has made me aware of an unexpected additional source of danger.

The bacteria that live in the human gut produce both methane and hydrogen gas, both of which are highly combustible. The textbook warns of the risk of a bowel puncture leading to intestinal gas fires or explosions. I've been diligently asking, but I have yet to find anyone who has actually witnessed such a thing. Still, I plan to keep an extra bucket of saline handy the next time we take out someone's appendix.



At August 29, 2007 at 5:47 PM , Blogger michaelg said...

Never seen an intestinal gas fire? Well you don't have to be in surgery to see it. Go to any mens' under graduate college dorm on a Friday night after the boys have drinking and you're bound to find at least one room full of bored freshmen sitting around in boxer shorts lighting their farts.
It works. Not that I've ever participated in such things. (Since setting my boxers alight in 1985.)


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