foreign objects left in patients during surgery

Foreign Objects Left in Patients During Surgery

Before each operation, you should know that there is always a risk that something could go wrong. This is a scary fact for many people each year, but it is also the truth for many Americans who end up with more medical problems following surgery. This is the case for almost 4,000 people per year who emerge from the emergency room with a foreign object left inside them from surgery – yes, you heard that right. Mistakes like these are so big and so rare that they are deemed “never events” in the medical community, but yet continue to occur every year. A study by the National Practitioner Data Bank actually shows that close to 10,000 patients left the hospital with a foreign object in them over the last 20 years.

One of the most popular items that is left inside patients is a surgical sponge, though strange items like clamps, scalpels, and scissors have also been found. In 2007, a woman received surgery for bladder-support as well as a hysterectomy. A year after having many complications seemingly related to her surgery, she was feeling ill and faint and also experienced blurry vision. In 2011, she suspected an ovarian cyst and the doctors told her that there was a mass inside her small intestine. It turned out to be a surgical sponge leftover from the previous surgeries. As a result, she decided to file a lawsuit against the hospital, the doctors, and the radiologist involved in her checkups.

Dangers of Forgotten Items 

The dangers of forgotten items left in a patient depend largely upon what the items were and where they were left. Take, for instance, a forgotten needle or a pair of scissors left inside a patient. This could inevitably cause bowel perforation or the puncture of other organs. A piece of gauze left inside can even lead to an infection that can turn deadly quite quickly. Sponges are more likely to be retained than sharp surgical tools, which means an infection as well. Just because a patient underwent a minor or non-invasive procedure doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there! If you notice any alarming symptoms, you should always contact a medical professional immediately.

Leaving foreign objects inside a patient is also known medically as unintended retention of foreign objects, or URFO. Aside from the typical symptoms caused by these cases, a patient may be burdened with extreme medical expenses from checkups until they find out what is wrong with them. They may also develop anxiety or depression, experience mental complications from corrective surgery, have to let go of a career due to a physical impairment from the URFO or corrective procedure, and much more. This is why a medical malpractice suit may result from these cases.

There are severe symptoms that you should always look out for. These include the following:

  • Bowel movements that appear to be bloody or tar-like
  • Constipation or difficulty urinating
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Increasing weakness or fatigue
  • Severe pain in the area where you had surgery
  • Swollen lymph nodes in armpits, groin, and neck
  • Symptoms of infection such as discoloration, fever, or soreness
  • The incision beginning to tear apart

Because this medical mistake is still prevalent in our times, it is important to understand the symptoms and contact an attorney if this mistake was made during your surgery. You have a right to compensation for your troubles relating to an URFO.