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New Study on Surgical Items Left in Patients


Surgeons at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center conducted a study that tracked surgical items left inside patients. Surprisingly, this medical error happens more often than patients would imagine. It is estimated there are up to 2,000 incidents a year where surgical items such as medical sponges are left inside the patients' bodies. Here are a few interesting facts from the article published in Columbus Dispatch last week.

  • 59% of the items left in patients were medical sponges or medical towels
  • Overweight patients are at higher risk of having a surgical item left inside because they have more abdominal tissue
  • The risk of items being left behind increase nearly 10 times if there are complications or unexpected events that occur during the surgery
  • The risk of items being left behind increase up to 20 times higher when there is a lapse in safety precautions by hospital team (such as, incorrect count of surgical items)
  • The most-common sites where the sponges are left during surgery are the chest, abdomen, pelvic area and vagina
  • Retained items can cause infection and it is often the case that these patients do not have any idea why they are suffering from painful symptoms

As the study suggests, retained surgical sponges and equipment prove to be a serious risk to patients, operating room facilities and hospitals. In 2008, Medicare implemented a policy to no longer reimburse hospitals for consequential surgical procedures and charges associated with medical error of retained surgical devices. The insurance companies refer to this as a "never event", meaning that the error should have never happened in the first place because instruments are supposed to be counted at the end of every surgical procedure. As a result of this classification, Medicare will not pay for subsequent medical treatment to fix the mistake. Injured parties should also know that in Ohio a person has one year in which to file suit from the date the foreign object was discovered.

The Columbus medical malpractice attorneys at Rourke and Blumenthal LLC have tried and/or settled a number of foreign object cases. See our most recent medical malpractice cases involving retained surgical items below.

  1. A 17 year old woman had abdominal surgery and then experienced seven years of discomfort before it was discovered that apiece of a surgical tool had been left in her body. This case went to trial and a jury returned a verdict in her favor and she received $120,000
  2. A sponge was left in a client after a coronary artery bypass graft surgery. This case was settled for $95,000
  3. Young woman suffered for 6 months following breast augmentation surgery before it was discovered that a sponge was left in her chest. The case went to trial and a jury awarded $85,000.

Click here to view more of our medical malpractice cases involving hospital negligence and surgical errors.

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