Surgical sponge most common item left in a patient after surgery

The word surgery automatically conjures up images of an operating room with surgical tools, sterile equipment, doctors and nurses hovering over the patient undergoing a procedure. Most New Jersey and New York residents hope they will never need surgery, but there may come a time when an emergency procedure may be needed to save a person’s life, or a planned procedure may be needed to tackle a chronic health concern.

Regardless of the reasons for the surgical procedure, patients and their families expect healthcare providers to provide a reasonable standard of care, free of preventable medical and surgical errors. However, a recent study estimated that during surgical procedures, surgeons inadvertently left surgical sponges or other items such as needles, gauze and other instruments inside patients about 39 times a week. These errors were not confined to one particular type of procedure, but occurred during various types of common procedures, including C-sections, knee replacements and gallbladder surgeries.

In one particular case, a 21-year-old man underwent surgery to repair his kidney after he was struck by a bullet. Three years later doctors discovered that a surgical sponge was left behind. The man underwent another surgery to remove the sponge and spent nearly six weeks in bed recovering. Despite many steps, such as new policies, penalties and fines to hospitals and more, nearly 2,000 patients nationwide reportedly have surgical materials left behind during operations annually.

For patients needing surgery, errors made by surgeons, such as leaving a foreign object inside the patient, is a real concern. If a sponge or instrument is left inside, the patient will unnecessarily have to undergo another procedure to rectify the mistake.

When a healthcare provider such as a doctor, surgeon or nurse fails to provide a reasonable standard of care, and harm to a patient results, the patient and their family may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, additional medical treatment resulting from the errors, lost wages, loss of earning capacity and more. When someone is concerned about a possible medical mistake, but in doubt, it is crucial to get the right information in order to have an honest assessment of the situation.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Medical field works to reduce number of surgical mistakes,” Anna Groman, Dec. 23, 2012