There are reports of foreign objects being left in surgical patients, according to a four-year study conducted by the Mayo Clinic other institutions that covered 422,526 surgeries. The study found that, in one out of every 5,500 surgeries, some type of surgical item was left in the patient. The research also shows that some hospitals are as much as 10 times more likely to leave objects in patients than the average, and many never make this mistake.
The report says that the most common type of left behind item is the surgical sponge. A surgical sponge is a small square that looks like a cotton bandage, and hundreds of the devices can be used during a single procedure. While the objects are small and easy to miss during clean up, especially when they are covered with the patient’s blood, these tools can cause the patient a great deal of suffering if they are left in the body after a procedure. There are procedures that operating rooms use to avoid leaving such tools in patients, but an alert by the Joint Commission warns that those procedures have an error rate between 10 to 15 percent.
There is, however, technology that can give hospitals a more accurate count. Sponges and other implements used during a procedure can be outfitted with a bar code or radio frequency transmitter that will make checking for the tools as simple as waving a special wand over the patient’s body. Reports say that they cost $2 to $10 per surgery, but only 15 percent of hospitals use them.
A victim of this type of hospital malpractice may be able to pursue a lawsuit against the parties responsible for the injury. An attorney working with that victim may be able to determine if doctor or hospital was at fault and help the victim pursue compensation.
Source: Forbes, “The Nauseating Mistake Hospitals Make And The $10 Fix They Scrimp On“, Leah Binder, October 24, 2013