Retained Foreign Bodies After Surgery
The true incidence of surgeons closing a patient after surgery and mistakenly leaving foreign bodies inside the patient is not known. There have been estimates ranging from surgeons leaving foreign bodies inside patients as frequently as 1 out of 100 patients to 1 out of every 5,000 patients. Either way, it happens far too frequently and is a serious problem in healthcare care today.
As briefly discussed above (see Surgical Errors), foreign objects or devices are too often left inside patients due to abject negligence. Surgical teams leave surgical sponges, pins, blades, clips, gauze, cotton or other medical instruments or hardware that do not belong inside a patient. These objects can cause damage to tissue, blood vessels and organs or cause life threatening infections, among other hurtful consequences.
The American College of Surgeons has issued a statement of policy designed to prevent the problem of leaving foreign bodies inside surgical patients. In [ST-51], the American College of Surgeons noted that:
- Prevention of foreign body retention requires good communication among perioperative personnel (personnel involved with patient just before, during and after surgery – nurses, surgical technologists, anesthesia professionals and surgeons) and the consistent application of reliable and standardized processes of care.
- Recommendations to prevent the retention of sponges, sharps, instruments and other designated miscellaneous items include:
- consistent application and adherence to standardized counting procedures
- performance of methodical wound exploration before closure of the surgical site
- use of x-ray detectable items in the surgical wound
- maintenance of optimal OR environment to allow focused performance of operative tasks
- employment of X-ray or other technology (e.g. radiofrequency detection, bar coding) as indicated, to ensure there is no unintended items remaining in the operative field
- suspension of these measures as required in life threatening situations
- Documentation of surgical item counts with notification of surgical team members of items left intentionally and of any count discrepancies
- Surgical facilities must provide resources to ensure equipment and personnel are adequate to employ these safety measures
- Policies and procedures for the prevention of retained foreign bodies should be developed, reviewed periodically and revised as necessary.
(See Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, Vol.90, No.10, October 2005)
When foreign bodies or foreign objects are left inside patients after surgery, great harm can result. Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and the entire surgical team may be found liable for negligence when this unfortunate but preventable event occurs.
If you or a loved one has been injured by negligence and you would like to speak with an experienced medical negligence lawyer, please contact us to speak to one of the lawyers at Boyers Law Group, for a free consultation about your legal rights.