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Surgical instruments may get left behind

People who enter the operating room entrust their lives in the hands of licensed medical professionals. There are situations, however, where these trusted surgeons and technicians make mistakes, which could lead to infections, permanent injuries and even death. Unfortunately, these situations occur more often than some may think. According to a study conducted by John Hopkins University, more than 4,000 people a year are victims of surgical negligence.

One of the most common types of errors involve surgeons leaving their instruments, including clamps, forceps and hardware, behind in patients’ bodies. Small surgical sponges are easy to lose in operating sites. They are used to absorb blood and other bodily fluids within the body, making it easier for physicians to see what they are working on. Yet when they become saturated with fluids, they can disappear next to an organ or tissue. Surgical technicians are responsible for counting all of the equipment and ensuring all pieces are accounted for before the final sutures are put in place. There have been cases where the technician has reported all items are accounted for, yet something is left behind in the patient.

In one case, a patient complained of severe stomach pain after having a cesarean section. Her stomach was swollen and six weeks after the surgery, her large intestines were affected. When doctors took x-rays to investigate, they found a washcloth-sized surgical sponge that had adhered to her intestine, causing severe infection. Some medical institutions have implemented new technology to ensure nothing is left behind in their patients during an operation.

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