Surgical items left in patients still an issue

By Greg Kohn

When surgery is necessary to save a life, healthcare providers are expected by families of the patient and the patient to take all reasonable to steps to ensure that an error does not occur. Despite efforts by hospitals to minimize surgical errors such as pre-post count of sponges to keep track of them, sometimes are they are still left in patients and, cause harm.

More than half the states are required to report medical errors but, experts believe that there is underreporting. Three studies conducted in 2008 estimated that sponges and other items are lost anywhere between 1 in 5,500 to 7,000 surgeries. In one case, when a woman suffered from a swollen stomach and, her bowels had stopped working about a month after her C-section, x-rays showed that a surgical sponge which was nearly the size of washcloth was left in her abdomen. She underwent emergency surgery to get the infected mass out of her body and required nearly three weeks of hospitalization.

In another case, a man with excruciating pain his gut was found to have several sponges in his intestines which were left behind from a surgery nearly a year earlier. The sponges had fused to his intestines causing infection and, he required surgeries to remove parts of his intestines, reroute them and spend weeks in a medically induced coma during recover. This man now wears a plastic bag to collect his waste.

These accounts of surgical mistakes are harrowing. Even though pre-post count of sponges is conducted and tracking systems are available for use, these mistakes still happen and the patient suffers. All healthcare providers have an on-going duty to provide a reasonable standard of care and, this includes ensuring that surgical instruments and sponges are not left behind in patient. When a patient is harmed by the negligence of the healthcare provider, they may be held liable for damages.

Post-operative recovery can be expensive. A patient who has been adversely impacted by a surgical error may be able to recover damages such as medical cost, future treatment cost, pain and suffering and more. It is important to consult with an experienced surgical mistake attorney to understand one’s options.

Source: USA Today, “What surgeons leave behind costs some dearly,” Peter Eisler, March 8, 2013

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.