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Surgical Instruments Left in Body

While estimates vary, and in some ways might never be accurately known, surgical instruments such as sponges and gauze – and in some rare cases, metal instruments – are left in the bodies of patients who have undergone surgery every single day. According to a USA Today expose, it happens about a dozen times every day. If you or a loved one experienced a complication stemming from a retained surgical item which necessitated further surgery, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP today.

Leaving behind any surgical device is known in the medical sphere as a “never event,” meaning that under proper protocol and conditions they should absolutely never occur. However this doesn’t translate to reality, and some studies have shown these types of events indeed happen every single day in hospitals across America.

Most commonly, items left behind are cotton sponges that sop up blood during an operation which are mistakenly left in the patient’s body. In most of these cases, they are left in despite hospital staff performing a count on the number of items which are removed from the patient’s body during a procedure. The simple fact is that human error is the root cause of each of these instances, which is grounds for a malpractice suit.

The results of these errors can be horrific. Sometimes people do not find out they have a surgical item inside of them until years after the procedure, such as a 36-year-old woman who found a broken piece of a medical forceps device in her stool a full three years after the procedure. She required surgery to remove the rest of the device, which had moved and embedded itself into her intestines.

More commonly, surgical devices or sponges and other instruments left in the body can cause immediate infections or blood poisoning, which may be fatal to patients – especially to the elderly or those with compromised immune systems already. To remove these instruments requires additional surgery, which may be too much for some to handle immediately after they just had one surgery.

What Constitutes Negligence

As these occurrences are even referred to as “never events,” the implications for when such an instance occurs is clear. It should never happen, so when it does, there is a good chance that a malpractice suit may immediately follow. While nobody can argue that being a surgeon or hospital worker is simple work, taking extra heed to ensure that a patient is free of surgical instruments before closing them up after surgery should never be an issue.

If a doctor didn’t perform their due diligence to ensure that a patient is clear of surgical instruments prior to ending the surgery, they may be held liable. If a doctor fails to recognize that something is wrong with the patient during their recovery from surgery which could reasonably be explained by something having been left in them during a procedure, they may be liable if those symptoms continue to develop and harm the patient.

Patients must put their trust into doctors and hospital staff when they undergo surgery. Doctors and hospital staff have a serious responsibility to ensure the best chances of success for a patient, and this includes being vigilant and careful not to leave surgical instruments in the patient. It is simply an utterly avoidable complication, and we will not hesitate to pursue anyone who is negligent and causes such an incident.

Attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP have over 50 years of experience advocating on behalf of our clients in Boston, Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts, securing them settlements and winning decisions in court to help pay their medical expenses as a result of medical malpractice and compensation for their pain and suffering.

Call us for a free consultation so we can get working on your malpractice case today at 617.492.3000 or toll-free at 800.481.6199. We are available 24/7.

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