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Hospitals Refuse to Use Current Technology to Prevent Leaving Foreign Objects in Surgery Patients

March 12, 2013

While you may have heard of surgical procedures where sponges and other foreign objects are left behind when a patient’s incision is stitched shut, you may presume this is an unusual mishap that rarely occurs.  However, surgeons leave sponges and other supplies inside the body of patients a dozen times a day.

This form of medical malpractice can cause serious medical complications and wrongful death.  This does not even account for the financial cost of corrective surgery to remove the foreign object.  The average cost of hospitalization to remove an instrument or lost sponge exceeds $60,000 according to a recent report published in the USA Today.

While there are thousands of patients who suffer injury from foreign objects being left in their body following surgery each year, many hospitals across the U.S. have shunned available technology designed to prevent leaving gauze, sponges and other foreign objects in the body after an operation.  Many patients experience intense pain for prolonged periods before the cause of their discomfort is discovered.  The time that elapses before the source of the injury victim’s discomfort and other symptoms is identified may cause life-threatening infection to take hold.

There is not federal reporting requirement for hospitals and surgical centers covering foreign objects left in the body so it is presumed that these incidents are significantly under-reported.  A recent study indicates that between 4,500 and 6,000 patients per year may leave a hospital after surgery with an object left behind after the incision has been closed.  Sponges are the most common item left inside the body.  Ironically, these mistakes are completely preventable but many hospitals have shunned the available technology that can prevent these oversights.  Fewer than fifteen percent of U.S. hospitals utilize sponges with tracking devices based on a study conducted by USA Today.

The remedial surgery needed to remove surgical sponges can cost $60,000 according to Medicare data.  However, the hardships faced by patients that must have an object removed from the body are exacerbated by the fact Medicare will not pay for the procedure.  Sponges lost in the body during a surgical procedure were first identified by the National Quality Forum as the most serious form of medical error over ten years ago.  This health care quality review recommended national reporting of these incidents to reduce the frequency of such incidents, but there is still no reporting requirement imposed by the federal government.

The failure to implement safeguards to prevent these medical errors also makes no economic sense.  The average costs to hospitals of a medical malpractice case involving a sponge that is not removed during surgery is between $100,000 and $200,000 per lawsuit.  The use of sponges with tracking devices increases the cost of the average surgical procedure by $8 to $12 per surgery.

If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury or a loved one has died, you may be entitled to financial compensation.  The Georgia medical malpractice attorneys at Montlick and Associates is available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. 

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

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