Objects Left Behind After Surgery

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After a surgical procedure, the last thing on your mind is whether or not the surgical team removed all of the instruments used during the procedure.  You probably didn’t imagine the possibility that a sponge or surgical instrument could have been left inside your body following surgery.  However, it does happen.  A recent study revealed that sponges and surgical instruments are miscounted in 13 percent of surgeries.

The Annals of Surgery study observed 148 elective surgical procedures and found that the majority of discrepancies in instrument count happened when nurses or surgical technologists misplaced items in the operating room.  Some studies have shown that the number of surgeries with objects left behind had a frequency rate of 1 in every 1,000 procedures, while other studies have shown this figure to be lower.   The majority of these figures come from information from insurance company claims, as there is not a lot of data available regarding unintentionally retained surgical objects.

Several years ago, there was one case of a surgeon who left a 13-inch retractor inside a patient during cancer surgery at a Wisconsin hospital.  The hospital had an established policy to perform instrument counts, but the surgeon still made a serious error.

The most common objects left behind during surgery include towels, sponges, instruments, sharps, wires and tubes.  Retained sponges and other objects are most often left in the abdomen.  When a surgeon leaves a foreign object inside a patient, it is usually not life-threatening.  A patient who has a retained object following surgery is most likely to experience the following:

• A prolonged stay in the hospital
• Second surgery to remove the foreign object
• Infection
• Small-bowel obstruction
• Visceral perforation

Even though retained objects are typically not fatal, these cases can still lead to serious injury and illness.  Patients may be faced with a longer recovery time, which can result in lost income as they are unable to immediately return to work. 

If you have been the victim of a retained sponge, clamp or other object, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  A case involving a retained surgical instrument after surgery is usually caused by negligence.  You can pursue compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost income and other costs associated with your injuries.  Contact the experienced Kentucky medical malpractice lawyers at Gray and White Law at 1-502-210-8942 or 1-888-450-4456.