Surgical Sponge

Understanding the dangers of retaining surgical sponges

The technological explosion of the last thirty years has led to advances in medical science unlike anything that our civilization has seen before. With that explosion has come a drastic increase in surgical procedures being used to enhance the quality of life for patients in a variety of ways. This has led to a growing concern about retained medical instruments, because leaving foreign objects inside the human body after surgery is completed can have drastic adverse health consequences for the patient. Among all the different errors that fall under this category, retained sponges are by far the most common.

Effects of retained sponges

The good news is that unlike metal surgical tools that could potentially perforate internal organs, retained sponges do not have the ability to tear apart tissue. That does not mean that they are a less serious medical error, though. The medical community treats all forms of retained surgical equipment as a “never event” because of their drastic health effects. Luckily, retaining surgical equipment is incredibly rare, with the incidence being somewhere between 1 in 5,500 to 18,760 surgery patients.

Other facts about retained medical equipment

Here are some other surprising facts about this particular form of error:

  • The most common cause of retained equipment is due to an incorrect count of sponges and other implements before closing.
  • These kinds of errors are far more common in open cavity surgeries.
  • The risks include bacterial infections and the formation of fibrous cysts that can cause damage to the body.
  • The faster the foreign body is removed via a corrective surgery, the more likely the patient is to survive the procedure.
  • Technological assistance with the count, such as having a barcode scanner to verify each piece of equipment, has been shown to drastically reduce the number of these errors.

Putting it all together

While the odds of falling victim to this and other medical “never event” errors is quite slim, having vigorous representation is important if you do find yourself in such a situation. It takes a qualified and knowledgeable attorney with a firm grasp of both the details of the error and the resources to bring in the right information. The costs of treating these mistakes can escalate quickly, and the effects can be either short-term or long-term, so each case is unique. If you or a loved one has needed to have surgery to remove surgical implements that were left after an operation, talk to an attorney soon about whether you are entitled to damages.

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