What are surgeons trained to do in case of an earthquake during a procedure?

I've never had a major medical procedure and will be getting a breast reduction later this year. I'm very excited and optimistic about it but unfortunately I can't help coming up with worst-case scenarios. I ask this question more out of curiosity than out of genuine concern. What would you do if there were an earthquake during surgery? I've read that certain hospitals in CA (Stanford?) actually provide training for this situation and I was wondering what the protocol was. Thanks!

Doctor Answers 4

Surgeons should put patient safety first, even during a natural disaster.

Congratulations on deciding to have breast reduction! While a natural disaster occurring during your procedure is unlikely, it is, of course, possible, and I applaud your thorough preparation for surgery. Hospital protocol during earthquakes is usually to not abandon the patient. If it’s a light tremor, your plastic surgeon would most likely wait it out. A severe earthquake, on the other hand, might motivate him or her to close you up as quickly as possible and move you into a safe space or evacuate. Surgeons are, of course, only human, but most physicians feel a powerful sense of duty to their patients and wouldn’t flee the building without you. Here’s to hoping your breast reduction procedure doesn’t put that to the test!

Nashville Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Earthquakes and Surgery


In all surgery centers that are accredited, there are specific procedures for every situation.  Most earthquakes do not cause a situation that causes immediate danger to the surgical environment. I've performed a necklift during a 5.0 quake we had in LA about 6 or 7 years ago and just kept operating; it only lasted a few seconds. Assuming that structural integrity of the OR suite is intact, then the next issue is fire, which has it's own specific protocol. Power is always on because of mandatory generators. Best of luck!

Gerald Minniti, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 89 reviews

What are surgeons trained to do in case of an earthquake during a procedure?

I'm pretty sure every hospital has training in this and know for a fact all hospitals and credentialed surgicenters have written policies in place for emergencies of this nature as well as others. That's the law. But you can imagine, depending on the severity of the emergency, the life of the patient as well as the OR crew could be placed in jeapordy. Odds are far greater you would be killed or injured on the highway (without an earthquake) on the way to or from surgery. 

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

What are surgeons trained to do in case of an earthquake during a procedure?

I"m sure that many of us in LA have wondered about such a scenario at one time or another.  I actually had a somewhat similar experience when about four to five days after the 94 earthquake I was operating ( a tummy tuck ) and we had a 5.0 aftershock.  We all held our breath until the shaking stopped and then moved on to continue and complete the procedure.  Under more dire circumstances we would have to awaken the patient bandage him/her and proceed in whatever method was available to protect the patient (first) and ourselves until help could arrive.  All accredited facilities do have backup emergency power sources so all equipment and monitors would continue running. Keep in mind that a huge earthquake, though predicted is very unlikely to occur right at the time of your tbreast reduction surgery!  Regards,

Jon A Perlman MD FACS 

Certified, American Board of Plastic Surgery 

Extreme Makeover Surgeon ABC TV

Best of Los Angeles Award 2015, 2016 

Beverly Hills, Ca

Jon A. Perlman, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.