Saunders Law Group

Retained surgical items are a threat to patient safety

After surgery, you never felt right. The doctors and nurses said everything went fine, but when you thought about the fevers that happened sporatically and the unusual pain you felt on and off for weeks, you intuitively knew it wasn't.

Eventually, you decided to go to a new doctor and ask for help. You were once again dealing with pain and a minor fever. They ordered a scan of the area and were shocked when it turned out that a surgical tool had been left inside you.

It took an additional surgery to correct the mistake, which means you've had more time away from work and from doing the things you love. You've had more pain and suffering than you should have, and the doctors and nurses just didn't listen. Now, you want to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Don't retained surgical bodies cause sepsis or other life-threatening injuries?

While retained objects can lead to pain, infection and sepsis, the reality is that many retained objects only cause nonspecific pain or inflammation. Sometimes, there is no infection, so surgeons or nurses may chalk the issues you're having up to a complicated recovery.

The problem is that retained surgical bodies can have potentially harmful consequences. In some cases, they do become life threatening, and they almost always require an additional surgery for removal.

In abdominal surgeries, the incidence of retained surgical bodies (RSB) is appropriately .3 to 1 per 1,000 operations.

What causes surgeons to leave items inside their patients?

The primary reason is because of a lack of communication. For example, if a nurse is counting and does not count out loud, no one else will know if she or he skips a number or fails to count an item.

A lack of organization may also mean that it appears like all of the items have been collected when they have not been. These two issues must be addressed to prevent injuries to patients.

What kinds of surgical items are usually left in patients?

Generally speaking, the items found in patients are surgical instruments, foreign bodies or surgical sponges.

If you have had to have a second surgery as a result of having items left inside you, it's important to reach out to find out what happened and to work on negotiating a fair settlement. A medical provider may make errors, but they need to be held accountable and learn from their mistakes to prevent future injuries.

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