Volume 3, Issue 4 (April 2006)
The Oxygen Index of Surgical Drape Materials
An effective method for minimizing operating room fires is to use materials that are least flammable in air and in oxygen-enriched atmospheres (OEA). The objective of this study was to characterize the flammability of commonly used surgical drapes by measuring the minimum concentration of oxygen [O2] required to support a candle-like flame on the test specimen, the oxygen index (OI) . Under the conditions studied, the OI was 17.8 for woven cotton towels (Huck), 18.5 for nonwoven cellulose draping, and 22.8 for polypropylene draping. These data demonstrate that materials commonly used for surgical draping have an OI less than or near the O2 content of ambient air (21 %), making them particularly susceptible to fire in the localized OEA of the operating room. Quantitative measures, such as the OI, are useful for determining the relative flammability of materials and their consideration should play an important role in optimizing operating room safety.