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How Often Do People Get Surgical Instruments Left In Them After Surgery?

By The Law Office of WT Johnson on January 10, 2013

Have you ever had surgery and wondered if the surgeon forgot any of the surgical instruments inside you? Maybe you never even thought to worry about it, but a New York Times article shared that every year, an estimated 4,000 cases of retained surgical items are reported in the United States.

These instruments can cause infections that may not even show up until years later. The article discussed that one day a woman felt a crushing pain in her abdomen. After doing a CT scan, a surgical sponge was discovered that was lodged in her abdomen. It had been left behind by the surgeon who did her hysterectomy four years prior.

The sponge had adhered to the bladder and the stomach area, and to the walls of her abdominal cavity. The festering sponge had spread an infection, requiring the removal of a large segment of her intestine.

The woman sued the hospital. She still struggles with bowel issues, and is full of anxiety and depression from the incident, and most days doesn’t even want to leave home.

The item most left behind is in fact the surgical sponge, which soaks up blood during surgery.There is new technology available to remedy the situation, such as using radio-frequency tags or barcodes to track sponges. In a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study, the radio-frequency sponge tracking system helped recover 23 forgotten sponges from almost 3,000 patients over 11 months.

Yet, many hospitals are not changing their practices. Fewer than one percent of hospitals use electronic tracking. Many still stick to old-fashioned methods of a nurse manually counting the sponges, but in a busy O.R. it is easy to lose count.

If you or a loved one were the victim of a careless error made by a nurse, doctor or surgeon, you deserve justice for your emotional and physical trauma. You should contact the Law Offices of W.T. Johnson today to set-up your free consultation.

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Posted in: Medical Malpractice

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