Enrique Ruiz suffered second degree burns on his neck and chest before medics were able to put out the blaze, the New York Post reported.
New York’s Lincoln Hospital are accused of trying to cover up the incident after it was revealed that the fire was not mentioned in a post-surgery review and the victim’s family were told ‘it happens’ when shocked by Ruiz’s burns.
On April 19 Dr Jay Yelon, the chief of surgery at the Hospital, was performing a tracheotomy to insert a breathing tube when his electronic scalpel came too close to Ruiz’s oxygen supply and caused a ‘minor explosion’, hospital insiders told the Post.
Waking up in extreme pain Ruiz told his brother, ‘I feel like my chest was on fire.’
Sources claim that Yelon did not mention the fire in a post-surgery report and said the flames were put out with ‘no danger to the patient’.
Accidents that harm patients must be reported to the state Health Department immediately.
Spokesman Peter Constantakes told the Post the incident was initially reported as ‘harmless’ but then confirmed the fire was being investigated.
The patient’s family were appalled when they saw the huge burns over Ruiz’s chest but one doctor reportedly dismissed the injuries as ‘like a sunburn’.
Ruiz, who could only remember his clothes being ripped off before he ‘blanked out’, was told by a doctor afterwards that oxygen ‘exploded’ during his operation.
‘That happens sometimes. It’s not unusual,’ the doctor added.
Ruiz was admitted to the hospital’s emergency room with pneumonia and bronchitis on April 14.
He is expected to fully heal from his burns, according to a spokesman from the hospital.
About 500 to 600 surgical fires happen each year across the U.S, according to Mark Bruley, who is an expert on the hazard.
Bruley said several patients have burned to death and that 25-30 suffer severe burns or facial disfigurement.