Items Left Inside a Patient After Surgery

Every year thousands of patients suffer serious complications from the most preventable injury: foreign items left in the body after an operation. Surgical items like sponges, clamps, and needles can cause life-threatening infections and other complications, including perforation of internal organs and permanent nerve damage. Retained foreign objects after surgery are classified as “never events,” meaning they are never supposed to occur and are 100% preventable.

It is difficult to estimate the magnitude of how often this type of medical negligence occurs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is anywhere between 1 in 100 to 1 in 5000 surgeries. However, a study done in 2008 reported to the Annals of Surgery that mistakes in tool and sponge counts happened in 12.5% of surgeries. Additionally, the Patient Safety Monitor Alert, announced in 2003 that 1,500 tools were stitched into patients each year. About 1% of these cases result in death. These retained foreign objects, most commonly sponges used to soak up blood and fluids, can spread harmful bacteria or cause painful tumors to grow around the object. The foreign object may not cause any immediate symptoms and may take months or years to be discovered.

Common Retained Foreign Objects

The average surgery uses about 300 surgical instruments, and major surgeries can use up to 600 instruments. All of them must be carefully tracked or they can be negligently left behind. The most common foreign objects or instruments left after surgery include:

  • Sponges
  • Towels
  • Clamps
  • Retractors
  • Gauze
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Scissors
  • Pins

Effects of Foreign Objects in the Body

Serious and potentially fatal consequences result from retained foreign objects after surgeries. Some complications include:

  • The most common signs are symptoms of infection. These infections can become fatal if they reach vital organs.
  • Pain as the foreign objects, if not quickly removed, can cause permanent nerve damage.
  • Damage to organs, blood vessels, and other structures—sharp objects like needles and scalpels can perforate nearby organs and vessels.
  • Death—if infections or internal damages are not detected and treated in a timely manner, results can be fatal for the patient.

Although retained object complications are becoming increasingly more common, they are entirely preventable. There are a number of safeguards hospitals employ to prevent surgical tools from being left in patients’ bodies. However, sometimes the system breaks down due to human error or unforeseen circumstances related to the surgery. Leaving a tool in a patient after surgery is generally a clear case of negligence in South Carolina. A lawsuit for retained foreign objects after surgery falls into the category of a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you have undergone surgery and feel that you have suffered a retained foreign object injury, contact the surgical negligence attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC.

If you or a loved one has suffered complications from items left inside a patient after surgery, you need to ensure you are well represented by an attorney with experience handling retained object cases. The complications suffered could have been avoided and may have lasting consequences that can affect your quality of life for years to come. The retained foreign object attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC are experienced medical malpractice attorneys who work tirelessly to develop a comprehensive legal strategy to ensure that you receive fair compensation for the damages you or your loved one suffered. For more information, feel free to contact us directly at (843) 995-5000 for a free consultation.