Transilluminators and Patient Burns
FAQ [Health Devices Jan 1998;27(1):39]
Hospital: Can a transilluminator specified as having a cold light source still cause burns?
Yes. Transilluminators are high-powered
examination lights often used to locate difficult-to-find veins. In general,
whenever a light source is placed near the patient's skin, excessive heating of
the skin will be a concern. To minimize this concern, many suppliers design
their devices using both an infrared heat filter, which helps reduce the heating
capacity by blocking delivery of the heat-carrying wavelengths, and a fiberoptic
cable. Some suppliers state that such fiberoptic sources are "cool to
touch"; however, even these sources can heat to dangerous temperatures.
ECRI is aware of cases in which transilluminators with fiberoptic sources have caused minor patient burns. Although device misassembly caused a few of the reported burns, in most cases, the burns occurred when the light source was kept at one spot on the patient's skin for too long. Suppliers caution that, to avoid burns, users should check the heat buildup periodically during use by placing the exit port of the transilluminator on a sensitive area of their skin, such as on the hand or cheek. One supplier also recommends moving the fiber every 5 sec during use. While some users say that this last recommendation is unrealistic, clinicians need to be aware that skin burns can result from extended exposure.