Get Help Today

(215) 972-8000

FREE Case Evaluation

Retained Surgical Instruments Lawsuit

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.

The medical malpractice attorneys at The Colleran Firm focus on representing patients harmed by surgical errors such as  surgical instruments left behind and retained foreign objects. Our experienced attorneys consistently have been listed among Pennsylvania Super Lawyers® and have achieved numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients. Pennsylvania law generally requires that medical malpractice lawsuits be filed within two years of the date of the injury. However, if you only discovered the presence of a retained surgical item months or years after your surgery, you may have longer to file a retained surgical instruments lawsuit. It is important to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after the discovery to review your situation and evaluate your legal options.

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.

Common Foreign Objects Left Behind After Surgery

Wrongful death act for survivors of medical malpracticeThe 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:

  • Surgical gauze
  • Clamps
  • Retractors
  • Needles and sharps
  • Towels
  • Cotton swabs
  • Scissors
  • Guidewires
  • Laparoscopic trocars
  • Drains
  • Suction tubing
  • Broken parts of instruments

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.

Causes of Retained Surgical Instruments

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:

Causes of Retained Surgical Instruments iconLack of surgical tool tracking procedures
Causes of Retained Surgical Instruments icon 2Failure to follow existing policies and procedures
Causes of Retained Surgical Instruments icon 3Inadequate education of staff
Causes of Retained Surgical Instruments icon 4Failure of staff to communicate relevant patient information
Causes of Retained Surgical Instruments icon 5Breakdown in communication with doctors

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:

  • emergency surgery
  • unplanned changes during the surgery
  • added procedure
  • involvement of multiple surgical teams
  • transfer of staff responsibilities during surgery
  • patients with a high body mass index.

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.

surgeon searching for retained surgical tool symptoms of retained surgical items

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.

What to Do if You Have Been Injured by a Surgeon’s Negligence

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.

Doctors and health care providers have a legal duty to provide medical treatment that follows the recognized standard of care. Any Incident involving a retained surgical object is considered a serious, preventable event by the National Quality Forum. We believe that negligent medical professionals should be held accountable for the harm they cause and injured patients should receive compensation. Each of our five trial lawyers at The Colleran Firm has years of legal experience. Our founding attorney, James E. Colleran, Sr. has been handling medical malpractice cases for more than 40 years with a record of successful results.

Our lawyers handle cases involving retained surgical items on a contingency fee basis. You pay no legal fees until we obtain compensation for you.

The attorneys at The Colleran Firm handle serious injury cases caused by health care provider negligence and medical malpractice in Pennsylvania & New Jersey.

Connect With Us:

The Colleran Firm

2005 Market Street # 1940
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 972-8000
Simple Share Buttons