We’ve seen those medical drama shows when a surgeon gets distracted and accidentally leaves an item inside of a patient after they closed them up. And while this may sound like a Hollywood drama, leaving surgical instruments inside patients happens, and it is a type of medical malpractice.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), estimates that the incidence of retained surgical foreign bodies (RSB) after surgery is as high as 1 in every 1,000 abdominal operations.
When Should You Seek a Malpractice Lawsuit for a Foreign Object Left In Your Body?
You may have a valid medical malpractice claim, if a foreign object was left inside your body during surgery. Our medical malpractice team can help you determine the likelihood of receiving compensation for your injuries.
Commonly Left Behind Objects
A vast array of tools, instruments and other supplies are utilized in surgical procedures. Surgeons, nurses, and other doctors can lose track of these and leave them in the open body cavity by mistake, or they can simply fall inside without anyone being aware.
Items that are commonly left behind, include:
- Sponges – A number of ‘sponges’ used to soak up blood an other fluids are heavily used in a number of surgeries. When saturated, they can be hard to see.
- Suction tips – Surgeons utilize suction to remove fluids (blood) from the surgical site. These devices have disposable or removable tips that can go missing.
- Scalpels — These sharp metal knives are used for precision cutting.
- Suture Needles — These sharp objects are used to sew sutures or stitches.
- Syringe Needles — The ends of many syringes can come off, when they do, they can easily go missing.
- Retractors — This steel tool enables surgeon to retract obstructing bone and tissue to access the site of interest.
- Clamps — A number of clamps are used to restrict or stop blood flow in veins and arteries.
- Forceps — Forceps are scissor-like metal tools used to grasp or hold parts of the body.
- Clips – Similar to clamps, these (usually metal) devices are used to temporarily hold veins, arteries and other tissues in place.
- Scissors – Metal scissors are widely used in many surgeries, losing a pair can easily occur if accurate counts before and after surgery are not kept.
- Screws, Rods & Pins – Many surgeries require one or more appliances, fixings or fasteners to be used. Unused appliances can easily be overlooked.
What Happens When Surgical Instruments Are Left Behind?
The consequences of having surgical instruments left in the body can vary greatly depending on what it was that was left inside the body, and where it is. From imperceivable to deadly, and everything in between.
In some cases, lost foreign objects could go years without being detected. However, more often than not, the objects left behind will have a negative impact the patient’s health and well-being. With all objects, there is the potential for pain, functional problems, and infection. With sharp objects, the immediate concern is laceration or perforation, particularly of critical organs, arteries, or tissue. With all objects infection is a great concern, as infection can cause severe pain, swelling, internal organ damage, fever, and even death.
As a result of the foreign object being left behind, the patient could have to undergo additional procedures to extract what was left behind. This comes with additional risk, associated pain, unnecessary inconvenience, longer recovery times, and the like.
Next Steps Regarding Your Medical Malpractice Case
While it may seem unbelievable that a surgeon would leave an instrument inside of a patient, it does occasionally happen. Some common causes include having staff members that are under trained, doctors are tired and exhausted due to a long shift and simply miss something, or just a lack of communication in the operating room. Whatever the reasoning may be, if you are injured as a result, you need to file a medical malpractice claim.