FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-11-14
Undergoing surgery can be a stressful — both physically and mentally. After going through a medical procedure, the last thing that patients should have to worry about is having a surgical instrument left behind inside of their body.
But studies show that every year at least 4,000 patients around the country who have surgical procedures need to worry about just that — and after going through the stress of the initial surgery, these patients have to deal with the fact that some kind of medical instrument was left inside their body. The objects left inside patients can include clamps, scalpels and scissors, but the majority of times — about two-thirds of these cases — the retained surgical item is a surgical sponge.
Why Surgical Instruments Get Left Behind
Experts say that the rushed environment in an operating room is a big contributing factor to surgical items being left behind inside of patients. Although members of the surgical team, usually nurses, are responsible to taking an inventory of medical instruments before and after a procedure, post-surgical miscounts are not uncommon. In fact, in the majority of cases when sponges are left behind inside of a patient, someone on the surgical team believed that all of the sponges had been accounted for.
Another cause for these retained surgical items is the fact that the 4-inch sponges used during operations are easy to miss — especially if they are soaked with a patient’s blood — when they are placed in certain areas of the body, such as the abdomen. In addition, this risk can increase when a patient is overweight.
New Solutions to Retained Surgical Items
According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, sponges that include radio-frequency technology prove effective in preventing these tools from being left behind inside of patients. In addition, bar code technology that is used to track surgical sponges has also been deemed useful in preventing these medical mistakes.
But, according to the medical experts at the patient advocacy group No Thing Left Behind, these technologies should be used to augment manually counting surgical tools after an operation, not as a replacement for these counts.
Get Legal Help After a Medical Mistake
According to the Millennium Research Group, about 100,000 people die each year because of medical mistakes — and this number accounts for one-fifth of all fatalities around the country. Common medical mistakes include retained surgical objects, operating on the wrong part of the body, medication errors and operating on the wrong patient.
If you have been injured because of a medical error made by your physician, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. Consult a qualified personal injury attorney so that you can find out what your rights are and how you can hold the negligent medical professional responsible for hurting you.