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Report: NYC man set on fire during tracheotomy surgery

enrique ruiz, surgery burn, tracheotomy
Enrique Ruiz displays the burns he received during surgery. CBS 2

(CBS News) A New York City man was reportedly badly burned during surgery at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.

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CBS New York reports Enrique Ruiz was at the hospital to get a breathing tube inserted - known as a tracheotomy - and replace a temporary breathing tube because of lung problems, but his brother Amuri Ruiz told the station his brother was badly burned during the second procedure.

"How could this happen, how could he catch fire? Because they never explained it to me," he said.

The New York Post reports that hospital sources said the fire occurred when an electric scalpel being used for the procedure gave off tiny sparks, which ignited the patients' oxygen supply. CBS New York confirmed the hospital said the burns were oxygen-related.

CBS New York reached out to the City's Health and Hospitals Corporation and to Lincoln Hospital and both were unable to comment. The State Health Department told CBS New York that they were made aware of it and we're looking into it. We will look at patient safety and make sure that proper safety procedures were followed."

Hospital spokesperson Nydia Negron told the New York Post that Ruiz received a life-saving emergency procedure and is "expected to fully heal."

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an estimated 550 to 650 surgical fires occur in the U.S. each year, with some leading to serious injury, disfigurement, and even death. They occur when all three elements of the so-called "fire triangle" are present, including an ignition source (such as a laser or electrosurgical tool), a fuel source (surgical drapes, alcohol-based preparations), and an oxidizer (like oxygen or nitrous oxide gas). According to the FDA, most occur in oxygen-enriched environments where the gas is present in higher quantities than in ordinary room air.

CBS New York reports Ruiz is currently in St. John's Hospital in New York City where he is being treated.

"I don't think anyone should get burned," he said.

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