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Woman catches fire during childbirth

C-section operation
An alcohol-based swabbing solution, often used in such procedures to keep the body sterile, may have caught fire  

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Health and fire authorities in New Zealand are investigating how a woman undergoing a routine caesarian birth procedure came to be set on fire.

The woman suffered burns to the lower part of her body when she caught fire just as theater staff at Waitakere Hospital in west Auckland began the operation.

Her baby son, who was delivered once the fire had been smothered, was unharmed and both are now resting in another hospital.

The woman had only received an epidural anaesthetic for the operation so was conscious when she was set alight.

A Waitemata District Health Board spokesperson, Caroline Mackersey, told the New Zealand Press Association Sunday the fire was a freak accident.

The cause of the fire is unknown but it is possible an alcohol-based swabbing solution used to keep the body sterile may have caught fire.

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Betadine, a common sterilizing agent used in hospital theaters, is not usually flammable but the less common chlorhexidine solution contains a high concentration of alcohol which could catch fire.

Theatre staff usually use diathermy equipment during a caesarian operation which uses electricity to cut through skin and cauterize bleeding.

Mackersey said a swabbing solution containing 70 percent alcohol had been used in the operation which was "standard procedure" at Waitakere hospital, the New Zealand Herald reports.

"What happened was outside the experience of anybody in that operating theater and there was a very experienced anesthetist and specialist. They were not young people," the Herald reports Mackersey saying.




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