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More Than You Bargained For: When Surgical Supplies are Left Behind


It’s hard to believe, but thousands of surgical procedures result in instruments and supplies being left behind after an operation every year. Having a sponge, clamp, or other retained foreign body can cause all kinds of havoc with your health. If you or a loved one has had to deal with this type of situation, a local personal injury attorney may be worth contacting.

How Often Does This Happen?

Surprisingly, estimates have it that most hospitals have this type of incident a couple of times every year. In many cases, patients leave the hospital thinking they’re on the road to recovery, only to suffer disturbing side effects in the coming weeks, months, or years. Nausea, pain, and other symptoms may not even be linked to the previous surgery. People often endure the symptoms for lengthy periods of time, believing the conditions will pass. Finally, they wind up in an emergency room with insufferable pain, to discover through imaging technology that their problems are all due to foreign bodies left inside them during surgery.

Most Frequent Tagalongs

The items that are most often left as tagalongs after surgery are gauze and sponges.  This makes sense because they can be difficult to see when they become blood-soaked during an operation. Particularly in cavernous areas of the body, such as the thoracic cavity, pelvis, abdomen and vagina, it can be nearly impossible to actually spot these materials. That is why nurses are assigned to keep count of sponges before and after operations. But in emergency situations when time is of the essence, relying on a manual count can become questionable. Every hospital has rigorous protocols and checklists, but, despite best intentions, errors can and do occur.

Using Technology to Help

One study reports that barcoding and radiofrequency detection systems have the potential to reduce errors by as much as 90 percent. But the technology is costly, time-intensive, and has limited availability.

Mistakes Impact the Wallet

Going back in to retrieve a forgotten sponge or clamp averages roughly $60,000, just in medical costs. Legal action related to these types of errors has cost hospitals millions of dollars, in addition to those costs.

More than Dollars and Cents

Perhaps more daunting than the money spent correcting the effects of retained foreign bodies are the mental, emotional, and physical costs associated with these types of errors. While some issues are resolved rather quickly, others are breathtakingly long-term. Items that are left behind for a lengthy period of time may become fused with intestines or other organs, requiring multiple operations to undo the damage.  Lifelong consequences sometimes plague patients due to these errors, such as colostomy bags or other difficulties. That’s why at the Law Offices of Hasson D. Barnes, LLC, our dedicated legal team will fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. Don’t suffer in silence: call our Baltimore office today for a confidential consultation.





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