Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Doctors Left a Sponge in a Patient's Body After Taking a Tea Break

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jul 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

When undergoing surgery, patients are often put under general anesthesia and are unaware of what is happening during the procedure. Patients expect the medical team to behave professionally, and with the patient's best interests at heart. However, after one patient got out of surgery, the later discovered the doctors had left a surgical sponge inside their body. To make matters worse, the error occurred when workers were swapped out after they went for a tea break.

An unnamed patient went in for a keyhole surgery and underwent the operation after being placed under anesthesia. As part of the procedure, surgeons utilized an endoractor sponge. This is an organ retraction sponge used to make more space in the body for the surgery, in this case, to facilitate dissection. At some point during the surgery, the workers left for a tea break, handing the surgery off to another team. A breakdown in communication during this changeover is blamed for leaving the sponge inside the patient.

“The patient initially made a reasonable recovery post-op,” a review stated. “However, there was a slight elevation in inflammatory markers towards the end of the week and the patient complained of worsening pain and a repeat CT scan identified a foreign body, which was confirmed by a surgeon as being the endoractor.”

As a result of the surgical mistake, the patient had to return for an additional surgery to remove the sponge. After an investigation, the report determined that staff changeovers during surgery should be avoided. They also found that distractions should be minimized, and staff should be properly trained on new equipment.

“This type of incident is incredibly rare,” said Dr. Lesley Anne Smith, an associate director with the National Health Service. “However, should one occur, we carry out a thorough investigation with the staff involved to ensure that lessons are learned and measures are put in place to prevent similar incidents happening in the future.”

While Dr. Smith called these incidents incredibly rare, there are a number of examples of doctors leaving surgical sponges behind after surgery. A woman in New Mexico had to be hospitalized after the surgical team left a baseball-sized sponge inside her after colon surgery. It took the doctors more than five days to notice the sponge, while the elderly patient continued to complain of extreme pain.

A man in Michigan recently won a appeals case in his lawsuit against a hospital that left a surgical sponge in his body for eight years. After a 2003 heart surgery, doctors left a sponge inside the man's body. In 2011, doctors noticed a surgical sponge near the man's heart, surrounded by a green fluid. The surgeons noted the missing sponge after the surgery but never told the patient. Unfortunately, the man died while his lawsuit was on appeal.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a medical mistake made during a surgery, you should talk to an attorney who will fight to get you justice. The Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys is fully equipped to handle your medical malpractice claim. Our staff includes a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience. We will focus on getting you compensation for your injuries, so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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