Retained Surgical Items are a Common Medical Injury


September 20, 2015

The failure to remove all surgical instruments at the end of a procedure occurs more often than many would suspect. According to NothingLeftBehind.org, a national surgical patient-safety project to prevent retained surgical items, it is estimated that between 2,000 and 4,000 occurrences of retained surgical items happen each year across the United States. Surgical sponges are a common item left behind, but they are hardly the only one. Safety pins and clips, needles, knife blades, cotton and gauze, electrosurgical items, as well as numerous other items have been reportedly left inside of patients after surgery.

Sponge Counts Can be Inaccurate

Following a surgery, surgeons and nurses will generally engage in a sponge count, counting the sponges as well as needles used during the procedure to ensure that all have been accounted for. However, more complicated surgeries can use upwards of 600 sponges. This makes the process of counting them complex, particularly after hours spent in surgery, and mistakes can occur. The task is additionally often left to nurses who might not know precisely where sponges were located.

The process of accounting for sponges and other instruments is not nationally standardized and hospital policies vary widely. Even those facilities that require stringent counts can become lax in the case of emergency surgeries. To combat this problem, newer sponges have been equipped with strips that make them visible by an x-ray machine. As such, hospitals employing these sponges will routinely perform an x-ray at the end of the surgery. Even more cutting edge sponges actually have a transmitter imbedded that will signal a receiver. While these technologies processes lead to fewer retained sponges, the new sponges are expensive and require users perform the retrieval tasks correctly. Moreover, not all hospitals have implemented the use of these sponges.

Retained medical products can lead to a variety of serious complications. Sponges can cause infections and adhere to organs, impairing bodily functioning. Sharp items can puncture vital organs and cause internal bleeding or death. Sometimes, the presence of a foreign item is not evident until years after a surgery. If you begin experiencing symptoms of a possible retained foreign body, the hospital or physician will often order x-rays or CT scans to uncover the source of the ailment. If a foreign body is detected inside of you, you should have the right to recover for damages associated with the negligent actions of the medical care provider who performed your surgery. Potential damages include compensation for your medical expenses, time off work due to your injuries, pain and suffering and much more.

Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law: Put Our Over 30 Years of Experience to Work on Your Case!

If you have been injured at the hands of a medical professional who you believe acted in a negligent manner, the Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, are here to help. Our firm has over 30 years of experience in the industry and we accept cases across Georgia and in the Southeast. The sooner you act after uncovering the medical professional's negligence, the greater your chances of obtaining a full recovery for your injuries. As such, do not delay in seeking legal assistance. Call Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law, 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 www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.


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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.