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Surgical Sponge Left In Patient

Posted Sep 27 2010 12:00am

A county judge in Palm Beach, Fla., will file a lawsuit against a surgeon and two radiologists over a sponge that was left inside him after a surgery at Good Samaritan Medical Center. The claim states the sponge rotted away part of his intestine, leaving him with the constant need to use the restroom and decreasing his quality of life. Bailey is asking in the suit that the hospital be forced to implement reform policies to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

After reading this article, I did some research to find out just how common this type of surgical error really is. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, most of these types of errors occur in emergency surgeries or with patients who are seriously over weight.

According to a December 2007 study by ScienceDaily, surgical objects are left in patients about 1,500 times each year.  Although surgical instruments, needles, clamps and surgical sponges have all been left behind, by far the largest number of retained objects are sponges.  Most retained objects are found during later surgery.

Retained sponges are a devastating complication for patients.

In order to prevent this complication, hospitals have developed procedures to count the number of instruments and sponges that are used during surgery:

-Four counts of the sponges are recommended.

-The first should occur when unpackaging the surgical tools/instruments.

-Before a surgery, one of the nurses attending the operating room is responsible for the second count of the sponges/towels.

-The third count should occur before the surgical cavity is closed.

-A final count should follow the surgery, when the same nurse is responsible for counting the sponges again to ensure that none were left in the surgical cavity. Error occurs, however, when the initial count is misreported, a simple miscount occurs, or the sponge tears or rips inside the surgical cavity in the body, and falls apart.

Usually, the operating room nurses are responsible to count the items prior to the start of surgery and then verify that the same number of items are removed after surgery.  But despite these procedures, inaccurate counts still occur.

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