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What You Should Know About Lost Surgical Supplies

Jun 8, 2018 | Firm News, Medical Malpractice

Indiana patients that place themselves in the hands of a surgical team should have confidence that their caretakers will take precautions to make sure the surgery goes off without any deliberate human errors. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as sometimes a hospital may accidentally leave surgical tools inside the patient after an operation. Here are some important facts that you should know about lost surgical items and the consequences they can inflict on a human being.

First, the notion of leaving surgical equipment inside a human body often makes people think of surgeons discarding metal tools like clamps or forceps. But as USA Today points out, a person almost never finds one of these tools left inside their body. Instead, surgical teams are actually most likely to leave a cotton sponge in a patient. These sponges are used to soak up body fluids during surgery, including the patient’s blood.

Leaving surgical equipment in a patient can also be costly for the hospital where the error was made. The patient may suffer from any number of complications that can require a return hospital visit. The cost for hospitalizing someone who has a surgery sponge or other surgical equipment can break $60,000. If the patient sues the hospital for malpractice, the final cost for an individual case can range between $100,000 and $200,000.

Additionally, a victim of surgical error may not even know that they have a lost item inside their body. Symptoms caused by the presence of a lost item may not appear for months or years after the surgery. Also, while complications can arise from the foreign object inside them, many people will not consider that a lost surgical item can be the culprit. Victims may suffer pain or other complications for months or even years if the cause is not identified.

According to CBS, a report from the Joint Commission discovered a number of locations where surgery teams were most likely to leave surgical objects inside patients. These included labor rooms, delivery rooms, operating rooms, or ambulatory surgery centers. Surgical objects were also left in laboratories where procedures of an invasive nature like colonoscopies are conducted. The probability of losing an object during surgery, however, increased by nine times when an emergency surgery was conducted. An abrupt change in surgical procedure also made it four times more likely that a surgical problem would occur.