Retained Foreign Objects
A Troubling, Fairly Common Problem
Surgeries can save lives. Successful surgeries can produce amazing benefits for patients, curing them of severe illnesses or improving their physical appearance. Unfortunately, however, some surgeries go wrong and result in serious harm to a patient. One of the most common surgical errors is a surgical instrument or object left inside the patient’s body. Objects can be left inside the patients during other procedures, too, such as the delivery of a baby. These objects are often called “retained foreign objects.” Negligently leaving surgical objects in a patient’s body after surgery is a form of medical malpractice.
Retained Foreign Objects After Surgery
Almost any object can be left inside a patient during a surgery or other medical procedure. Surgical sponges are the most common retained objects, but the following objects are also commonly left inside a patient:
- Cotton swabs;
- Electrosurgical adapters;
- Retractors; and
Causes of Retained Objects
There are a few reasons that retained foreign objects remain a troublesome health care problem. First, there are no uniform national standards for preventing retained foreign objects. Hospitals and other surgical centers establish their own procedures for accounting for all of the objects used during surgery.
Second, health care professionals sometimes do not follow those procedures properly or completely. The deviations from the procedures are largely unintentional. However, some situations can make it difficult for the health care providers to follow proper procedures, including:
- Emergency surgeries, with their time pressures and stress;
- Surgeries that require procedures that were unanticipated at the start of the surgery; and
- Surgeries that require large numbers of instruments, tools, and sponges, making proper counting and recording more difficult.
Problems Caused by Retained Foreign Objects
Retained foreign objects may remain in the body for a long time before symptoms occur, complicating the problems they cause. Regardless of when they are discovered, retained foreign objects can cause a number of severe medical harms, including:
- Life-threatening infections;
- Organ damage;
- Damage to blood vessels;
- Severe pain;
- Permanent scars; and
Retained foreign objects also commonly necessitate additional medical care that goes beyond the original surgical procedure. That care can include additional:
- Medical procedures needed to identify a retained foreign object (such as an X-ray, CAT scan, or other radiological procedures);
- Hospitalizations; and
Of course, this additional medical care results in additional expense to the patient.
Can retained foreign objects be prevented?
Yes. Hospitals and other health care facilities establish various checks to prevent incidents involving retained foreign objects. Some of the procedures hospitals use to reduce the risk of retained foreign objects include:
- Promoting effective communication among health care professionals;
- Using standardized counting procedures that account for every object that goes into and out of a patient’s body;
- Checking the patient’s wounds for objects before closing surgical sites; and
- Using x-rays and other technology to verify that no surgical objects have been left in the patient’s body.
Contact a Miami Retained Foreign Objects Lawyer Today
If you have suffered an injury due to retained foreign objects, or believe you may have, please contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case. You may contact us online or phone us at 305-372-0123 (local) or (866) 769-0123 (toll-free) to arrange your consultation. For no charge, you can tell us about your injury and learn how the legal system may handle your retained foreign objects case. We look forward to hearing from you and to working with you.