When Surgical Teams Leave Items In A Patient’s Body After Surgery

Posted on April 20th, 2019
By Steven Gursten
When Surgical Teams Leave Items In A Patient’s Body After Surgery

Every year, many patients experience complications after surgical procedures that are caused by surgical teams leaving items in the body after the surgery is finished. It’s hard to imagine this could happen, since surgical teams are usually comprised of several individuals, including surgeons, nurses, and other doctors, providing a checks-and-balance system.

The technical term for an item left in a patient after surgery is unintended retention of the foreign object (URFO). The items most commonly left behind are sponges and needles, but large instruments or medical tools are also sometimes left behind.

Leaving items behind after surgery is something that is never supposed to happen, yet unfortunately, it happens more often than people realize. This type of error is estimated to occur in approximately one in every 5,500 surgeries.

Items That May Be Left in the Body After Surgery

Items That May Be Left in the Body After Surgery

Many different instruments are used in every operating room, even for minor surgeries. Any type of major surgery can take several hours and may require the use of hundreds of different instruments large and small. The surgical team needs to track each and every item to prevent anything from being left in the patient’s body.

Items that are sometimes negligently left in the patient after surgery include:

  • Towels
  • Sponges
  • Gauze
  • Clamps
  • Retractors
  • Scissors
  • Needles or pins

Consequences of Foreign Objects Left Behind After Surgery

Consequences of Foreign Objects Left Behind After Surgery

The consequences of items unintentionally left in a patient’s body after surgery can be extremely dangerous. Gauze or sponges left inside a body can accumulate bacteria and lead to serious and even deadly infections. This type of infection can fester and spread throughout the body, leading to severe illness and possibly even death.

Anything sharp that is left inside the body can puncture or lacerate tissues or organs which can be completely devastating. If one of the intestines is pierced, the contents can spill inside the abdominal area, which could cause a life-threatening infection.

Signs of a Possible Unintended Retention of a Foreign Object

Signs of a Possible Unintended Retention of a Foreign Object

Some level of discomfort after surgery is normal, but there are some symptoms that aren’t normal and can quickly get worse. If you find that you are feeling much worse after surgery than you expected to, there is a possibility that a surgical team left something inside your body.

Warning signs to watch for include:

  • Fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • The surgical incision is bleeding, discolored or oozing pus
  • The incision starts to open
  • The area around the incision is swollen, hard or warm
  • Foul odors come from the incision site
  • Pain intensifies
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Inability to urinate
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to keep food down
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood

Getting Medical and Legal Help

Don’t ignore signs that you are not recovering after surgery or that you are becoming inexplicably ill. Your symptoms can rapidly get worse and become a life-threatening medical emergency. Resolving your medical problems has to be the first thing you address.

The medical complications that you may go through if you are a victim of a foreign object left behind after surgery are completely preventable. When a surgeon or nurse makes a mistake that was completely preventable and causes injury or death to a patient, the hospital may be liable for paying some form of compensation to the victim, or the surviving family members if death resulted.

Taos Injury Lawyers are experienced in the field of personal injury and medical malpractice. We would like to help you receive fair compensation for any unnecessary suffering that you may have experienced. Get in touch with us by filling out our contact form. Our lawyers will set up a consultation soon to go over what happened and discuss how we can help.

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