It may seem incredible that a surgeon could leave a pair of scissors in a patient’s body during a procedure. After all, these items are counted beforehand to prevent these mistakes from happening. So it’s surprising that, in almost 90 percent of cases of retained foreign objects, the records showed that all equipment and supplies had been returned after surgery.

So how do these counting errors happen? The study revealed that falsely correct counts were usually due to human error: staff fatigue, interruptions, distractions, and the use of surgical relief teams that take over the original procedure.

In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers discovered a number of reasons that doctors left objects inside patients during surgery:

  • Miscommunication. Surgeons may use equipment or supplies during surgery without telling the circulating nurse. Since these items have not been recorded on the count sheet, an object may be retained even if the paperwork shows a “correct” count.
  • Sponges are easily lost inside a patient’s body. 69 percent of patients retained sponges, while 31 percent suffered a retained surgical instrument.
  • Lack of proper procedures. Patients with retained foreign bodies were four times likelier to have had emergency surgery or an unexpected change in their procedure than patients whose surgeries went as planned.

During the course of the study, 70 percent of patients with retained foreign objects had to undergo another operation—and one patient died as a result.

If this has happened to you, the Louisville medical malpractice attorneys at Gray and White want you to know that there is someone on your side. We provide FREE, one-on-one consultation for all malpractice victims, making sure you understand your legal rights. Call us today at (800) 634-8767 to get started.

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