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When Surgical Patients Have Objects Left in Their Body

Nichol & Associates, Attorneys at Law Sept. 3, 2020

Every year in Tennessee and the rest of the U.S., there are between 4,500 and 6,000 incidents where surgical patients have a foreign object left inside their body. These objects can include surgical instruments, which may cause serious injuries and even death. Here’s a list of some of those foreign objects:

  • Scissors and scalpels

  • Clamps and forceps

  • Masks and gloves

  • Towels and sponges

  • Forceps and tweezers

Needles and Sponges the Most Common

It turns out that needles and sponges are behind most of these incidents. Sponges can be especially hard to identify because they soak up blood and blend in with the patient’s organs and tissues. The areas of the body where foreign objects are most commonly mislaid are the abdomen, vagina and chest cavity.

Preventing These Surgical Errors

Most hospitals rely on nurses or technicians to manually keep track of the number of sponges and tools, which opens the way for errors stemming from fatigue or distractions. To better track their sponges, some hospitals are having them bar-coded and scanned. Others are using radio frequency identification tech to track sponges and towels.

The consequences of leaving foreign objects in the body can range from infections to digestive problems. Patients may damage internal organs, bleed internally and experience fever and swelling. Additional surgeries may be required to address the issues.

Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Case

If you had a foreign object left in your body, had the wrong side operated on or suffered from some other surgical error, then you might want to pursue a medical malpractice case and seek out compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. You may want a lawyer to help you gather evidence that the doctors or nurses did not live up to an objective standard of care. The lawyer may also assist with negotiations.