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Foreign Objects: The Hidden Danger of Surgical Procedures

Every year, an estimated 4,000 cases of “retained surgical items,” or items left in the patient’s body after surgery, are reported in the United States, according to The New York Times.

These items, which also include clamps, scalpels and scissors,  are usually gauzelike sponges and are left largely due to human error based on the old-fashioned method of keeping manual count of the amount of sponges used, of which dozens are stuffed inside of a patient to control bleeding during a surgical procedure. The operating room declared all sponges accounted for in four out of five cases in which they were left inside a patient.

“In most instances, the patient is completely helpless,” said Dr. Verna C. Gibbs, the director of NoThing Left Behind, a national surgical patient safety project. “We’ve anesthetized them, we take away their ability to think, to breathe, and we cut them open and operate on them. There’s no patient advocate standing over them saying, ‘Don’t forget that sponge in them.’ I consider it a great affront that we still manage to leave our tools inside of people.”

While hospitals now have access to more technological approaches to accounting for all sponges used during a procedure, including radio-frequency tags and bar code technology, many do not want to commit to the extra cost needed to implement these policies.

The extra cost to have each sponge implanted with a tiny radio-frequency tag that will alert a detector if left inside the patient before closing them up? About $10 – roughly the cost of a single suture used in surgery. Read the complete details here:

When Surgeons Leave Objects Behind

Steve Crandall, a top-rated medical malpractice attorney throughout Ohio and Kentucky, has vast experience in this ongoing problem; in 2012 the office of Crandall Law tried a case in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas – Kelly Maron et. al v. Lake Health Systems and Dr. Timothy Pritchard – in which a surgical towel was left in Kelly’s abdomen after a June 2009 surgery to remove colon cancer.  The towel was not discovered until November 2009 and caused the removal of 2/3 of Kelly’s small bowel and massive digestive issues which will last her entire life. This case received a verdict of $910,000 on August 30, 2012 and has been informally reported as the largest medical negligence verdict in Lake County history.

If you have any questions regarding medical malpractice throughout Ohio and Kentucky, contact Steve Crandall. Steve is available to help answer your questions and guide you in determining your next steps.

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