Gossypiboma: Simple Mistake or Medical Malpractice?

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Every surgery has intrinsic risks, but a medical mistake should not be one of those risks. Each year, doctors make more than 4,000 surgical errors. More than half of these mistakes involve an object that is left in the body—usually a sponge.

During surgery, small gauze sponges are used to clean up body fluids and to control bleeding at the surgery site. Since the pads are small, they are easily overlooked. If a doctor is in a hurry or there is an unexpected complication, a sponge can be easily forgotten.

At first, the patient seems to be recovering normally. It may be months or even years before the sponge causes a problem. Then the patient begins to experience pain near the surgical site. He may also show signs of infection as well as other symptoms, including:


  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Intestinal erosion
  • Internal scarring
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Fistula in the bowels


If the sponge is not found and removed, the patient may suffer from serious illness or even death.

Sponges are left in the body often enough that doctors have a name for this type of mistake. The injuries that result when a sponge is left behind during surgery are known as a gossypiboma. Some doctors may also use the term textilioma.

Because gossypiboma is a common medical mistake, it is standard medical practice for Louisville operating room staff to count and record sponges at least three times during any surgical procedure. Sponges should be counted:


  1. Before the first incision is made
  2. When any layer of the body is closed up
  3. During the final closure of the skin


If new sponges are brought into the operating room, nurses must add the sponges to the written count. Sponges may not be taken out of the operating room or disposed of until the final count is complete and all sponges are accounted for.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. A nurse may miscount or extra sponges may be brought into the operating room if there is excessive bleeding. Because it is an emergency situation, the extra sponges may be overlooked. In 62 percent of medical malpractice claims that involve an object left in the body, the object was thought to have been accounted for.

Because hospitals have a duty to protect patients and prevent common surgical errors, a gossypiboma can be considered a form of medical malpractice. If you or someone you love has suffered from gossypiboma while a patient at a Louisville hospital, you have the right to seek compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and any scarring or permanent injury that resulted from the medical error. For more information about Kentucky medical malpractice claims, please contact Gray and White Law at 888-450-4456 and ask to schedule a free consultation with a Louisville medical malpractice lawyer.