Retained objects a costly and painful surgical error

The prospect of facing a surgical procedure is often an unsettling one, whether the procedure has been anticipated or is an emergency decision. Of all the concerns that patients face, becoming a victim of a surgical error may be one of the most frightening. A Pennsylvania patient safety advocate recently warned about the importance of retrieving all items that are used by surgeons during an operation.

Often referred to as unintentionally retained foreign objects, the items that are sometimes left behind after an operation can lead to serious complications, including death. Of the estimated 772 incidences from 2005 to 2012, 16 resulted in the patient dying. While this is a relatively rare cause of death, any object left behind can result in an infection and pain for the patient.

There are several safeguards that can ensure that this does not occur, and one of the most efficient preventions is the careful counting of all objects used during an operation. Furthermore, it is recommended that items are counted more than once in order to ensure that all items have been retrieved. The most likely object that is overlooked is the surgical sponge, though there are many implements that can be left behind after a procedure.

In the vast majority of surgeries, medical providers work hard to ensure that they do not cause further harm to their patients. Unfortunately, not every provider is as diligent as necessary in order to prevent a surgical error. If a Pennsylvania patient has suffered further harm as a result of an error during an operation or other medical procedure, he or she is entitled to file a medical malpractice civil suit against the providers who caused the harm. While a favorable ruling may not help return a victim to full health, monetary compensation may allow him or her to seek the care needed without the added stress that financial pressures can impose.

Source: infectioncontroltoday.com, "Preventing Retained Surgical Items is a Team Effort", Kelly M. Pyrek, March 31, 2017

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