In as many as one in every 5,500 surgeries, some type of material or medical device is left inside of the patient, notes the background section of a study in the September 2014 issue of Journal of the American College of Surgeons. These "retained surgical items" can cause serious harm, pain and suffering, and long-term health complications for the patient.

Facts about Retained Surgical Items

Some of the most common (and dangerous) retained surgical items are sponges and gauze. Sponges and gauze may be easier to misplace than surgical instruments, making them a serious potential risk.

The Washington Post article, “When your surgeon accidentally leaves something inside you,” provides a few noteworthy facts about foreign objects left in the body.

  • Retained surgical items can lead to “readmission, additional surgeries, abscesses, intestinal fistulas, obstructions, visceral perforations and even death.”
  • The most common places sponges and gauze are left behind are in the stomach area, pelvis, chest, and vagina.
  • The average cost of removing an item from a patient is over $63,000.
  • When patients decide to sue those responsible, the settlements can range from $2 million to $5 million.
  • The most common way hospitals try to prevent these mishaps by happening is by counting the sponges prior to surgery.
  • Sponges may be more likely to be left in a patient in an emergency situation, where the surgeon and attendants didn’t have time to count prior the surgery.
  • Hospitals can now use radiofrequency detection systems that detect tiny chips sewn into the gauze to keep track of them.
  • A 2012 study from the University of North Carolina revealed that radiofrequency detection systems helped locate 23 retained sponges in almost 3,000 patients over an 11-month period.

Peachtree City Medical Malpractice Blog

For more articles about surgical errors and other medical malpractice topics, visit our medical malpractice blog

If you or a loved one were injured by a surgical error in Peachtree City, call the Law Office of Jason Schultz to discuss your legal options. Contact our office today at 404-474-0804 for a free, no-obligation consultation. 

Jason R. Schultz
Helping Georgia area residents with car accident, medical malpractice, and personal injury claims since 1991.
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