Foreign Objects Left Inside Patients

Retained Surgical Instruments: A Type of Medical Malpractice

According to The Joint Commission, leaving an instrument inside a patient’s body after surgery is a well-known problem, but also a preventable one. This type of malpractice is so egregious, it has been deemed a “never event” – an event that is never justifiable in a medical setting.

If this happened to you or a loved one, get in touch with the NYC medical malpractice lawyers at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., for a free review of your legal rights and options.

How big of a problem is left-behind surgical instruments?

The Joint Commission compiled data from hospitals in the United States over the last seven years and determined that there had been more than 770 reports of retained foreign objects in patients after surgery within that timeframe. As if that wasn’t scary enough, these 770 reports resulted in 16 deaths and about 730 patients who had to extend their time in the hospital.

Keep in mind that this 770 figure is just reported incidents. The actual problem may be much larger than this, anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 according to The Joint Commission.

Zachary Perecman wrote his New York Law Review Case Comment about a New York Court of Appeals’ decision on a four-inch piece of a catheter left inside a patient’s heart in 1986. You can read more about that case here.

Risk Factors That Could Increase the Likelihood of Retained Surgical Instruments

Information from surgical disclosure reports in the United States reveals some common denominators in cases of retained surgical instruments, such as:

  • Overweight patients
  • Rushed surgical procedures
  • Conducting multiple surgical procedures
  • Procedure involved multiple surgical teams
  • Staff turnover during procedure

Emergency Surgical Procedures Are No Excuse

A majority of these retained surgical instrument cases may happen in emergency surgeries. These surgeries are unplanned and rushed, and often conducted by surgeons who have no prior history with that patient or knowledge of their medical history. However, having the proper procedures in place can still prevent this type of surgical error – it can be as simple as taking an inventory of surgical instruments before and after the procedure.

Gossypiboma: Left Behind Surgical Sponges or Towels

One of the most common instruments left behind after surgery is a surgical sponge (sometimes towel). This particular type of retained surgical instrument earned its own name – gossypiboma. This type of surgical mistake is particularly dangerous because its effects are subtle at first. Even when a patient does begin to experience symptoms, x-ray imaging may not be able to detect the small sponge or towel. Ultrasonography and CT scans are often needed to diagnose gossypiboma. Gossypiboma can be misdiagnosed, resulting in unnecessary surgical procedures as well.

Contacting an Attorney at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C.

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., represents individuals who have had instruments left behind during surgery. This type of medical malpractice can result in serious harm to the patient, requiring extended hospital stays and additional surgical procedures. If this happened to you or a loved one, get in touch with our New York City medical malpractice lawyers today for a free evaluation of your surgical error case.