Facts about surgical items left behind after a procedure

Friday September 18, 2015

A “never event” is something that happened during surgery that should have never occurred. Unfortunately, it’s more common than you might think. Each year, 1,500 patients have surgery and come out of it with a foreign body left inside them.

Johns Hopkins researchers estimate that 39 times a week a towel, sponge or other foreign object is left inside a patient’s body. That means one patient in every 10,000 across the United States suffers from such a mistake.

What are the most common objects left inside a patient after surgery? They are:

— Sponges

— Towels

— Broken instrument parts

— Guidewires

— Pieces of drains

— Needles

It is most common for a foreign body to be left behind in a surgery done on the thorax or in the abdomen. While these cases are not always fatal, a small percentage are. In 95 percent of the cases, the patient must have a longer hospital stay or additional care.

How can incidents like this be avoided? Strict adherence to a counting process is an important solution. In addition, methodical and consistent wound exploration must be done before the incision is closed.

For those that are injured because a doctor or member of the surgical team left a foreign object in their body after surgery, a civil suit can hold those liable responsible. Whether you have suffered the injury personally or it cost your loved one his or her life, it’s important to understand how the law affects your case. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can provide you with more information on these types of cases.

Source: Becker’s Spine Review, “A towel, a sponge, a needle, oh my! — What did you leave behind during surgery? 10 key facts,” Mary Rechtoris, Sep. 10, 2015

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