Healy Scanlon Law Firm

Surgical errors can leave patients with objects in their bodies


Every day, many residents of Chicago, Illinois, undergo surgical procedures and many of these come with inherent risks. One of the new developing risks that have been concerning patients is when doctors or other health care providers leave objects inside a patient's body. Unfortunately, such events can have adverse negative implications on the patient's health, exposing the patient to injuries or even death.

Health care experts call avoidable medical errors "never events" -- mistakes that should never happen. Leaving sponges in patients who have been operated on is one medical mistake that should never occur in an operating room.

No single statistics can show how often such mistake occurs. Data from the Mayo Clinic has found that between 2003 and 2006, a case of an object left in a patient occurred in every 5,500 surgeries. A study of malpractice settlements conducted over two decades found that such never events occur more than five times per day.

The best way to make sure that a sponge will not be left inside a patient's body is by counting the ones that go in. The Joint Commission, a non-profit organization, found that sponge counting mistakes occur about every 10 to 15% of the time. In most cases, where counting errors occur, the medical staff did not think an error was committed.

Technology is being developed to avoid surgical errors involving sponges. For example, a manufacturer has produced a technology that uses sponges with bar codes and counters.

Errors can still occur because of negligence, even with the new developing technology. Medical errors can result in a longer hospital stay, higher medical bills or even a patient's death, which is then followed with funeral costs and lost opportunities. A Chicago medical malpractice attorney can help the family of a deceased patient should they choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent hospital or medical staff.

Source: Bloomberg, "Can Technology Stop Surgeons From Leaving Sponges Inside Patients?," John Tozzi, March 25, 2014

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