Every surgical operation comes with risks, but most hospitals work hard to minimize complications within their control. However, one mistake that can easily be eliminated continues to victimize thousands of U.S. patients. Items such as sponges, gauze or surgical instruments are left inside the bodies of patients an estimated 4,000 times every year.
“Retained surgical items” can cause severe complications leading to permanent injuries or chronic health conditions. Sometimes, the surgical error isn’t discovered until months or years later, when the foreign object has adhered to the patient’s internal tissue and caused a potentially fatal infection. In some instances, a patient may suffer wrongful death from a retained surgical item and the surviving family never discovers why.
Here are a few facts about foreign surgical objects left in patients:
- Sponges account for about two-thirds of the objects left in patients
- Surgeries involving large body cavities, such as the abdomen, are the most likely to involve a retained surgical item
- Overweight patients are victimized by retained surgical items more often than others
Because this type of surgery error is so preventable, it’s troubling that hospitals haven’t been able to minimize or eliminate it. A simple and accurate sponge count is often the solution, but surgical teams somehow still manage to make counting errors. New technology has provided solutions, but many hospitals have been reluctant to implement new systems that may have significant initial costs.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a foreign object left behind during surgery, contact an experienced Michigan surgical mistakes lawyer to explore your options.
McKeen & Associates, P.C., is a highly regarded medical malpractice law firm that helps surgery patients throughout the U.S. Based in Detroit, it has a staff of skilled attorneys that willingly travel and use technology to represent surgery error victims throughout the country.
Source: The New York Times, “When Surgeons Leave Objects Behind,” Anahad O’Connor, Sept. 24, 2012