Unexpected Surgical Complication: When the Surgeon Leaves Something Behind
Many medical operations are so commonplace that patients agree to them with hardly a pause. That can be a good thing: more often than not surgical procedures are necessary, and indisputably improve the patient’s quality of life. But what if a routine procedure results in serious complications due to a medical error? The fact of the matter is, patients find themselves in emergency rooms more often than you’d think due to a retained foreign body. Indeed, surgical instrument like clamps, sponges, and other items are sometimes left behind after the surgeon sews up a patient. The results can be devastating. If you or a loved one encounters this situation, a local personal injury attorney may be able to help.
How often does it Occur?
Estimates put this type of error at two per year in a typical hospital. Compared to the number of operations performed annually, the percentage is small. Nonetheless, for the people affected by this type of error, the outcomes can be serious. Often patients are discharged following surgery feeling like they are on the mend; it may take weeks or months for symptoms of a problem to appear, including digestive issues, nausea and vomiting, pain or fever. If enough time has passed, patients may not make the connection between current symptoms and the previous operation. When things get intolerable, they may wind up back in the emergency room, where they find out through a series of expensive tests and imaging that a sponge, forceps, or another device was accidentally left behind following the earlier surgery.
Most Commonly Left Items
According to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, gauze and sponges are the items most often left in a wound following an operation. Why? These items can be difficult to see after becoming blood-soaked, especially when the surgery is in a cavernous area of the body such as the abdomen, pelvis or vagina. Medical protocol requires nurses to keep an accurate count of these materials as they are placed in the body, but errors can, and do occur. Particularly in emergency situations when time is a critical factor, there is a potential for human error.
Modern technological systems to prevent these kinds of errors exist, including bar coding systems and radiofrequency detection devices. Although these new devices are proven to decrease errors by up to 90 percent, they are not frequently utilized except as back-up procedure.
Consequences of these Mistakes
Studies show that the typical cost of removing these items runs over $60,000. Often, patients require further surgeries with increased medical risks and financial trauma. But the money is the least of the consequences. The pain and suffering, time away from normal activity, and emotional costs associated with this type of error can be overwhelming. Lawsuits associated with these types of incidents run upward of $5 million in some cases. If you have been burdened with this type of medical scenario, the experienced personal injury team at the office of Derek L. Hall, PC, The Heavy Hitter, will fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.