A doctor or surgical team member should never inadvertently leave a surgical tool, sponge or other foreign object inside a patient. If not discovered promptly, a retained surgical item can cause an infection, blockage or other serious or even fatal complication. Surviving patients may suffer physical and emotional harm, depending on the type of object left in the patient. Many have to undergo follow-up procedures to remove the retained foreign object. Unfortunately, this type of disturbing medical error occurs surprisingly often. If you or your loved one has been harmed by a retained surgical item, you may be entitled to seek compensation from the health care provider.
Our medical malpractice attorneys will review your medical records and work to determine whether you were harmed by a preventable medical error. If so, we will fight for your right to be compensated for the trauma you have suffered due to a preventable error.
The most common surgical tools left in patients are surgical sponges. Multiple members of an operating team may place cotton sponges inside a patient during a procedure. A small, blood soaked sponge may shift inside a body cavity if the patient is repositioned during
surgery. The sponge may resemble bloody tissue and be overlooked during a body cavity sweep if a surgical team is hurrying to close an incision and wrap up before a patient’s anesthesia wears off. An individual who develops complications as a result of a retained sponge may be eligible to file a sponge left in patient after surgery lawsuit.
Among the other surgical items and objects that are commonly left behind in patients are:
The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority reported that during a one-year period, it received nearly 200 reports of retained foreign objects in patients. In 40 of these cases, the foreign object was discovered at some point after the patient left the operating room. The actual number of patients harmed by retained foreign objects is likely much higher since many cases may go unreported.
Incidents involving retained surgical items may occur in operating rooms, labor and delivery centers, emergency rooms and ambulatory surgery centers. According to the Joint Commission, a highly regarded independent healthcare accreditation agency, the fundamental causes of retained surgical items are:
Many types of events in an operating room can lead to a patient being inadvertently left with a surgical object inside. Members of a surgical or delivery team may change duties during a procedure. The person responsible for removing a swab or clamp may be different than the person who inserted it in the patient. Studies have identified scenarios that increase the risk of medical errors involving retained surgical tools:
Retained surgical tools occur more frequently in operations involving the chest or abdomen. The occurrence of an unintended retention of foreign object was nine times as likely during emergency surgery and four times as likely when the procedure changed unexpectedly. But these errors can occur in any type of medical procedure.
Medical guidelines recommend that members of a surgical team manually count surgical tools multiple times including before a procedure, before closure of a cavity within a cavity, and before wound closure and after a procedure. While most hospitals have counting procedures, there is wide variety in how the counts are conducted. Incorrect counts are common, even when the tools have bar codes on them. Interruptions, conversations, and operating room traffic can cause counting errors. A radiograph may be done if it is suspected in the operating room that an item was left inside a patient.
Retained foreign objects may be detected immediately after the procedure by x-ray, during a routine follow-up visit or when a patient develops surgical foreign body symptoms such as pain or infection.
If you have suffered symptoms or required additional medical treatment due to a retained surgical item, you should consult with a knowledgeable Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney. We can advise you as to whether you have a valid retained surgical instruments lawsuit and whether we can help you.
Our lawyers handle cases involving retained surgical items on a contingency fee basis. You pay no legal fees until we obtain compensation for you.