The repercussions of a surgical mistake can be devastating, even fatal. One of the most common is when a surgeon leaves a foreign object inside a patient.
According to government data, academic studies and legal records reviewed by USA Today, of all the objects to be left behind after a surgical procedure has been performed, sponges are the most common. And the effects can be quite serious.
Oftentimes patients experience excruciating pain, which at first may be attributed to the operation (making it difficult to distinguish abnormal pain). It can also interfere with the digestive system (such as the intestines) and when left undetected, may result in a potentially life-threatening infection.
Unfortunately, it can take several months or even years before the source of pain and discomfort is discovered. By then significant damage might have already been done.
Since hospitals are not required to report incidences of foreign objects left inside patients, it’s hard to say how many have been victims. However, between any data that is available and research studies, it’s estimated that between 4,500 and 6,000 cases occur every year. More than two-thirds of these incidences are believed to involve sponges.
Common Reasons Foreign Objects Left Inside Patients after Surgery
It’s hard to imagine how this happens. Tracking technologies for items such as sponges are available. These types of surgical mistakes could also be avoided if counts were kept on how many sponges were used during surgery and how many are left afterward.
Before closing up the wound, efforts should be made to make sure the area is thoroughly explored. Healthcare providers should also pay attention to risk factors.
For instance, an emergency surgery or one that involves complications oftentimes heightens the flurry of activity and chaos, which may increase the chance of a mistake. It’s also believed that certain patients, such as those who are significantly overweight, might be at greater risk because there is more space for a sponge to be lost.
When a surgical error results in injuries, an attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates can explain legal options that may be available.