Sep 26

Foreign Objects

Surgical Objects Left Inside a Patient

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According to a December 2007 study by ScienceDaily, surgical objects are left in patients about 1,500 times each year.  Although surgical instruments, needles, clamps and surgical sponges have all been left behind, by far the largest number of retained objects are sponges.  Most retained objects are found during later surgery.

Retained sponges are a devastating complication for patients.  If a sponge or instrument is left behind, it can cause pain, infection, abscess, fistula and/or intestinal obstruction.  Retained surgical objects lead to longer hospital stays, additional surgeries and sometimes even death.

In order to prevent this complication, hospitals have developed procedures to count the number of instruments and sponges that are used during surgery.  Usually, the operating room nurses are responsible to count the items prior to the start of surgery and then verify that the same number of items are removed after surgery.  But despite these procedures, inaccurate counts still occur. 

When sponges or other surgical instruments are left behind after surgery, both the operating room nurses and the surgeons may be held liable to the patient for any injuries.  The extent of the injuries can vary depending on the surgical object left behind and how quickly it is discovered and removed.

All surgeries carry risk.  If your doctor has recommended surgery, make sure you understand the risk and benefits involved.  You may also want to consider getting a second opinion from another surgeon not affiliated with your doctor.  The following questions may assist you when speaking with your physician about surgery:

  • Why do I need surgery?
  • What kind of surgery do I need?
  • What exactly will be done during the surgery?
  • What are the benefits and risks of having the surgery?
  • How many times have you done this surgery before?
  • What are the possible complications of the surgery?
  • How successful is this surgery for my condition?
  • How long does the surgery take?
  • Will you be the only surgeon doing the surgery?
  • What will happen after the surgery?
  • How long will I be in the hospital after the surgery?
  • Will the surgery hurt?
  • How long will it take me to recover from the surgery?
  • What hospital has the most experience in this type of surgery?
  • Will my health insurance cover the costs of the surgery?
  • Is there another way to treat my condition other than surgery?
  • What will happen if I don’t have the surgery or if I don’t have the surgery?

Contact Harrell & Nowak

If you or someone you know is the victim of a retained surgical instrument, call the law office of Harrell & NowakShirin Harrell is a registered nurse and an attorney.  She has experience handling this type of case and has represented patients who were victims of retained surgical instruments.

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