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Study: Surgical Sponge Most Likely Item To Be Left Behind

If you have a serious medical condition or emergency, surgery is often required. When you undergo surgery, you put your trust in the surgeon to use their skills and experience to perform the procedure safely. The last thing that you likely expect is that the surgeon will make an error that is obvious to the layperson.

Unfortunately, one of such obvious surgical errors occurs quite regularly, according to a study by the American College of Surgeons. In the study, it was found that a retained surgical object error occurs in each hospital in the United States at least twice each year. This type of error happens when the surgical team leaves behind a surgical object in the patient after the procedure has been completed. All in all, this type of error affects about 7,000 people nationwide each year, according to the study.

In the study, researchers determined that the most common surgical object left behind is the surgical sponge. These sponges are rather small and are used to soak up blood and bodily fluids during surgery. Because they are small and often colored with blood, the sponges can be missed, since they can become wedged behind body parts and hard to spot.

When you consider other surgical tools, the sponge may not seem as much of a threat as a scalpel or clamp does. However, in reality, sponges can be quite dangerous to the patient. If the missing sponge is not removed quickly, it can attract bacteria, become infected and spread the infection to other areas of the body. In some cases, this infection can be fatal.

The study examined the steps that hospitals take to reduce the risk of left-behind items to determine their effectiveness. It found that radiofrequency technology (RF) is by far the most effective way to prevent this type of surgical error from occurring. In RF technology, surgical tools are implanted with a computer chip. At the end of the surgical procedure, a wand is waved over the patient's body, allowing a computer to detect any items left behind. According to the study, the use of RF leads to a 93 percent reduction in left-behind items.

Despite the effectiveness of RF, many hospitals have not adopted it, because it is expensive. Instead, many rely on less effective but cheaper methods, such as manual instrument counts and X-rays, to detect left-behind objects, both of which are subject to human error.

An Attorney Can Help

Unfortunately, many hospitals see their patients in terms of profit and loss, rather than the human beings that they are. Sadly, in some cases, many do not take notice of patient safety until they face the potential of significant financial loss in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

If you or a loved one has been harmed because of a surgical error, it is important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately. An attorney can advise you on your right to compensation and work to hold the responsible party accountable for causing your injuries.