Using Technology to Prevent Sponges Left Inside of Surgical Patients

September 19, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
Using Technology to Prevent Sponges Left Inside of Surgical Patients

Preventable medical errors are a major problem for hospitals and patients across the country. As reported by the Washington Post, these complications are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, ranking only behind cancer and heart disease. Surgical mistakes are a significant part of these errors. Each year, thousands of surgical patients have had to endure operations on incorrect body parts, unnecessary surgeries meant for other individuals, and surgical instruments left inside of their bodies. When patients leave the hospital with medical instruments, sponges, and other objects sewn into their bodies, they are negligently placed in danger of serious illness and even death. Approximately 11 occurrences of surgical sponges being left inside patients take place in the United Sates each and every day. Experienced surgical error lawyers have seen how these negligent actions cause unnecessary pain and suffering. These errors often require additional surgical procedures to correct the mistake and treat resulting complications, including:

    • Mass infections
    • Digestive dysfunctions
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Coughing up blood
    • Urinary and bowel dysfunctions
A surgical safety system could prevent patient injuries Traditionally, hospitals use manual methods to ensure that all surgical sponges are accounted for after a procedure. According to a study reported by USA Today, researchers at New York's Mount Sinai found that these manual counts were only effective 77% of the time when items were left inside of patients. An additional study by Minnesota's Mayo Clinic uncovered even more disturbing data. These researchers found that counts were ineffective in 68% of cases where a surgical sponge was left inside of a patient. To address these ineffective measures, more than 500 hospitals nationwide are using a new surgical safety system to prevent surgical sponge errors. A computerized counting system is used to uniquely identify each surgical sponge individually. This provides surgeons and their supporting staff an opportunity to account for each separate sponge before closing a patient at the completion of surgery. Old accounting systems relied on a whiteboard that was erased when the surgery was completed. The new system maintains an electronic, permanent record that can be assessed as needed at later dates. One provider of this accounting system estimates that it has prevented more than 1,300 retained surgical sponges, which would have cost the health care industry about $825 million. When surgeries leave patients with unexpected pain or additional complications, the attorneys of Crandall & Pera Law help them bring claims against all responsible health care providers. With offices in Ohio and Kentucky, we are here when you need us. Please call us in Kentucky at 877-686-8879, in Ohio at 877-686-8879 or complete our contact form to reserve an appointment.