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Medical Malpractice Involving Objects Left in the Body During Surgery

January 06, 2015

There are many forms of medical malpractice.  One relatively common and preventable form of surgical error involves leaving an object behind in a patient’s body during surgery.  Although this type of error is not considered medical malpractice under all circumstances, this type of medical error is considered a “never event”, which means it should never occur.  When objects are left in the body during a surgical procedure, the patient can suffer serious medical complications and even death.  Along with impact on a patient’s health, this type of surgical error can be extremely expensive to rectify.  The cost to surgically remove an object like a sponge, guide wire, scalpel or other object can run as much as $50,000 or more, so it is a costly mistake.

While data varies widely on the prevalence of this type of medical error, the rate of occurrence for such incidents is too high since this type of mistake is entirely preventable.  Some estimates place the frequency as high as one per thousand surgeries.  The Veteran’s Health Administration estimates its rate for such errors at one per 6,000 surgeries.  Although estimates vary regarding the frequency of such errors, a publication by the ECRI Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to improving patient safety, indicates that this form of medical error is more common than wrong-site surgeries and surgical fires.  Some estimate that 1,500-2,000 patients per year may have a foreign object remain in their body after surgeries in the United States.

A study conducted by the ECRI Institute that evaluated claims data for this type of medical mistake found that the most common adverse outcomes for such mistakes include:

  • Follow-up surgery to remove object: 69 percent of patients
  • Readmission or prolonged medical stays: 59 percent of patients
  • Infections including sepsis: Almost 50 percent of patients
  • Small-bowel obstructions: 15 percent of patients
  • Visceral perforation: 7 percent of patients                

As the data makes clear, some patients suffer multiple negative outcomes associated with a foreign body being left inside their body during a surgical procedure.

Although most hospitals implement procedures for counting objects to avoid this type of error, these protocols appear to be inadequate in many cases.  A closed claims study suggested that 88 percent of the time when this type of error occurs, a count was conducted and documented as being correct by members of the surgical team.  There are a range of factors that can increase the risk of a foreign object being retained in the body according to The New England Journal of Medicine:

  • Emergency surgery
  • Obese surgical patients
  • Greater blood loss during the procedure
  • Unplanned changes during the procedure
  • Multiple surgical teams involved in the surgery

Put Our Law Firm's Over 39 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Claim!

If you or a loved one has suffered a medical complication because of a foreign object left in your body during surgery, you may have a right to financial compensation.  Our Georgia medical malpractice lawyers at Montlick and Associates provide representation to people who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, 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. 

Sources: 071208171847.htm

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.

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