Are some types of surgeries more at risk than others, for the likelihood of a retained object?

Your doctor said the procedure was routine. He said that the probability of anything going wrong was next to nothing. He answered all of your questions with precise confidence and affirmation. Perhaps what you should have asked him was whether or not he could count.

After two weeks of pain and suffering, your primary physician suggested going to the emergency room for an X-ray of your abdomen. Low and behold, the doctors at the emergency room discovered three sponges that were left inside you during your hysterectomy.

Seriously!? Three sponges!? Although your surgeon never mentioned the possibility of something like that happening, is leaving equipment or tools inside a patient common for certain surgeries?

Surgeries That Put You Most at Risk for a Retained Object

Retained surgical instruments (RSIs), also known as retained foreign objects, should never be an issue after a surgical procedure. However, NoThing Left Behind, a national surgical patient-safety project designed to prevent retained surgical items, estimates that 2,000 patients a year in the U.S. suffer from an RSI. These incidents generally occur as a result of surgeons being rushed or having to quickly perform intricate surgeries. Unfortunately, hurried actions can, and do, lead to mistakes and forgotten equipment—which ultimately leads to you paying a high price.

The types of procedures most commonly linked to retained foreign objects include:

  • Obstetrical surgery. Vaginal deliveries and cesarean sections account for 25 percent of retained foreign object incidents. This alarmingly high rate is most likely due to the chaotic nature and necessity to deliver the baby as quickly as possible.
  • Digestive system procedures. Internal abdominal exams using a laparoscope (an instrument equipped with a camera, scissors, and forceps to aid in surgical endeavors), hernia repairs, colon removals, and partial stomach removals account for 16 percent of RFOs.
  • Hysterectomies. These surgeries account for 10 percent of RFOs, including both abdominal and vaginal approaches and procedures that had to be converted from vaginal to abdominal mid-procedure.
  • Cardiovascular procedures. Heart bypass surgery and the insertion or extraction of pacemakers, account for an additional 10 percent of RFO cases. In most of these cases, the RFO was a sponge that was packed into the wound pocket and became forgotten.

Fighting Back

Living with a foreign body inside you as a result of someone else’s negligence is inexcusable. Not only should you be able to trust your surgeon with your life—which you did—you should also be able to trust him to keep track of his instruments. Unfortunately, the chaotic nature of a surgery can cause mistakes to be made, in which you wind up paying the price. That is—unless you fight back.

If you’re a victim of surgical malpractice, contact us today to learn more about your rights and options for a malpractice lawsuit. Surgeons rely on their hospital’s lawyers to free from them from blame—but you don’t have to allow their blatant mistakes to go unpunished. You owe it to yourself to get compensation and justice for your injuries.

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