Medical Complications of a Retained Surgical Object

Ever since your abdominal surgery last week, you’ve been constipated and experiencing searing pain in your side. Your doctor assured you that the pain you are experiencing is normal after an operation, and the constipation could be a result of the anesthesia. Since you have had no reason to doubt him, you’ve been trying to take it easy and do what you can with laxatives and stool softeners—that is until this morning.

You awoke with such a horrendous cramp you thought someone was stabbing you. Your wife had decided that you’ve had enough and it couldn’t be normal. Your wife drove you to the emergency room, where an x-ray showed a large obstruction the size of a washcloth in your bowels. Once the resident realized that you recently had surgery, he concluded that the obstruction was probably a surgical sponge. You were told that it needed to be removed immediately, as it was blocking your intestines and causing a severe risk for a deadly perforation.

How could this possibly have happened? A sponge? Really? As they rolled you into the operating room, the only thing you could think of was how lucky you are that you have a lovingly worrisome wife—because if you trusted your doctor, you may not have survived.

When Miscounting Becomes Life Threatening: Consequences of a Surgeon’s Mistake

A retained object (RO) is an unfortunate and highly preventable result of poor surgical focus. It occurs when a sponge, scalpel, clamp, or other surgical tool is overlooked by your surgeon and is left inside your surgical site. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, ROs should not occur, and are considered to be “never events.” Surgeons should be able to keep track of how many tools are used in order to make sure all tools are accounted for before he stitches the wound.

Unfortunately, even though classified as highly preventable, nearly 2,000 patients fall victim to this egregious error every year. As a result, patients not only suffer pain, but a variety of additional consequences as well, including:

  • Internal bleeding. A retained scalpel, or clamp can cause lacerations, punctures, and scrapes to surrounding tissues, causing internal bleeding and damage.
  • Surgery risks for secondary operation. Since the object must be removed after discovery, you’ll be forced to undergo another operation, and as all of its risks.
  • Prolonged recovery time. Since a secondary surgery will cause new and additional wounds, it could take twice as long for the tissues to heal.
  • Infection. Although surgical tools are supposed to be sterile, when they become encrusted in coagulated and dried blood, that blood can begin to decay and break down—infecting not only your clean blood, but also surrounding tissue and bone.
  • Blockages. An overlooked clamp could potentially block necessary blood flow, while a blood soaked sponge could obstruct the essential flow of bodily fluids such as blood, plasma, urine, and waste.
  • Searing pain. Along with discomfort, infections and blockages can cause serious damage to your nerves and be excruciatingly painful.
  • Death. If not discovered and immediately removed, infections, perforations, and blockages could become so severe that they could kill you. According to recent studies, 35 percent of ROs have fatal outcomes.

Your Medical Malpractice Claim: Leaving Nothing to Chance

There is absolutely no reason that your surgeon and his staff can’t take the time and focus to make sure all equipment is accounted for before closing your wounds. Regrettably, accidents do happen, and when it comes to surgical accidents—you’re the one who pays the price.

Don’t allow a doctor’s mistake to cost you. Contact us today for your initial consultation and review of your case. Our experience, focus, and attention to detail will not only help you understand your rights, but we’ll be there every step of the way to make sure you get what you’re owed. Don’t leave your settlement to chance, call now to get the settlement you deserve.

Make sure your family and friends are aware of the dangerous consequences of retained surgical objects. Use your social media to share this page with them via Facebook, or tell them to contact us directly to discuss any potential questions or concerns they may have about a recent accident. Remember, they may not know their risks until it’s too late. 


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