Retained Foreign Objects

Surgical procedures are fraught with risks and when a patient goes into a hospital, they understand they are facing potential risks from anesthesia, possible infections and many may face pneumonia from being inactive after a surgical procedure. Some patients also face problems from poorly executed procedures although one of the things that many people do not think about is the potential of a surgeon forgetting to remove a sponge, needle or other foreign object from their bodies before closing their surgical incisions.

Regulations regarding procedures

In 2006, the Association of Surgical Technologists released a recommended standard of practice for counting items used in surgical procedures including sponges, needles and instruments. However, these were recommendations and in most cases, hospitals are free to set their own policies. The end result, there is no standardized procedure for accounting for these items from hospital to hospital. Unfortunately, this lack of standardization could result in a patient discovering days, weeks and oftentimes months after surgery they are carrying around something in their body that was never intended to be there.

Possible complications

Fortunately, in most cases, foreign bodies are discovered fairly quickly after a surgical procedure and physicians take the steps necessary to remove the item from the patient. Unfortunately, this typically means the patient has to undergo a second surgical procedure and is faced with the risks that are common is any surgery. In some cases, the items may sit in the patients body for months before being discovered. When this does occur, some of the potential health risks include:

  • Infection – the longer a patient as a foreign body left in them, the greater the likelihood they face of developing a serious infection. Sponges, clamps and other items are attacked by the bodies own immune system,, much the way your body attacks a splinter you receive in your foot or hand
  • Lacerations – in extreme cases, when the foreign body that was not removed is a scalpel, clamp or other sharp object, patients can face potential lacerations of vital organs which can cause life-threatening or life-long health issues

Surgical obligations

When you are admitted to the hospital for a surgical procedure or to deliver a baby, you have an expectation that your physician is going to exercise reasonable care. The team involved in any procedure has an obligation to meet a reasonable level of care, including making sure that any and all instruments, sponges and even cotton swabs are accounted for after all procedures. Anything less is considered negligence by the doctor. To prove negligence, in these cases, there are four pieces that establish proof by the patient:

  1. Did the surgeon meet their obligation? – The operating room team works under the direction of a surgeon. As such, the doctor is responsible to ensure that all objects are accounted for after any procedure. Failure to do so is a failure of duty.
  2. Did the surgeon breach their duty? – If an item was left in your body after a procedure, the answer is yes. The duty was to account for all surgical items and if one was left in you, then they did not meet their duty
  3. Did you suffer an injury? – While a second procedure might not seem like an injury, this may largely depend on interpretation. However, patients who suffered an infection or a laceration caused by a foreign body are clear injuries
  4. Was the injury caused by the failure to remove object? – This may be the most challenging aspect to prove since complications can occur after surgery. However, infections caused specifically by the foreign body or lacerations due to the item being retained in your body are fairly simple to prove

Medical malpractice law is often very confusing and filing a suit requires you to meet a certain burden of proof. However, a retained foreign body is clearly a breach of duty by the surgeon. Proving procedures were not followed or that injuries or infections resulted from this foreign body is something your legal team can help with. Do not suffer in silence as a victim of medical malpractice.

A retained foreign instrument after a surgery can lead to a serious injury and require further surgery. These foreign instruments can be surgical instruments, sponges, needles, blades and many other surgical devices. When a doctor or nurse make an error or mistake and allow a foreign instrument to remain in an individual after surgery, a medical malpractice claim may exist. At Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC, we work to obtain answers and work to gain compensation for the injured and their loved ones.

During a surgery, many tools or instruments are used to properly perform the surgery. These objects are to be counted by the surgical team so that the mistake of a retained foreign instrument does not occur. If the count of the instruments is incorrect, a CT scan or x-ray may be required. If these test are not performed and a sponge , needle or blade is retained, an injury may follow.

Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC has handled numerous medical malpractice, birth injury and retained foreign instrument cases and will work with the proper experts to interpret the data and provide insight and testimony as to how the potential mistake occurred.

A medical malpractice lawsuit cannot reverse the medical outcome, but can provide compensation for suffering, future medical expenses, lost income or in-home care.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a retained foreign instrument, call Meinhart, Smith & Manning today at (877) 776-1219 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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