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Surgical Tools Left Behind in Patient’s Body

One of the most frightening complications after surgery involves leaving an object behind inside the patient’s body. It seems impossible that a surgeon would forget about sponges, clamps, or scissors and leave them inside a patient before sewing them up. Unfortunately, it is much more common than most people know. When foreign objects are left in a patient, it is almost always caused by medical malpractice.

Left Behind Surgical Instruments Have a Long History

Foreign objects left behind after a surgical procedure are not a new phenomenon. Researchers examining the brains of mummies from Egypt have found a small tool left behind in the skull of a mummy. A small tool used for removing the brain during embalming was found after examining a series of CT scans. 

The instrument would have been inserted through a hole at the root of the nose. The tool would have been used to liquefy and remove the brain through the nose hole. According to the researchers from a university in Zagreb, Croatia, “It is an error that the embalmers left this stick in the skull.” 

Foreign Objects Left Behind are “Never Events”

Foreign objects left behind in a patient are referred to as “never events.” According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, never events are, “errors in medical care that are clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in their consequences for patients, and that indicate a real problem in the safety and credibility of a healthcare facility.”

When medical centers in Minnesota reported never events, they found 26 separate incidents of a foreign object left in patients after surgery in one year. Examples of surgical objects left inside a patient after surgery include: 

  • Surgical sponges
  • Scalpels
  • Scissors
  • Towels
  • Needles
  • Clamps
  • Tubes
  • Surgical gloves

We’ve written about a number of these foreign object never events in the past, including a woman in California who found a metal probe left in her body after a tubal ligation. In another case, a patient was left with a sponge in their body causing severe pain after doctors took a tea break during the surgery. 

Complications from Left Behind Surgical Tools and Medical Malpractice Claims

When a foreign object is left behind in the body, it can cause major problems. However, the problems may take time to develop. This is why it can take months or years before the injury victim finds out about the doctor’s mistake. Common complications include: 

  • Pain
  • Abdominal tumors
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Intraabdominal abscess
  • Bleeding
  • Obtrusive ileus
  • Intestinal perforation
  • Gastrointestinal fistula

When the injury victim complains about pain or shows signs of infection, the doctor may suspect any number of other medical conditions and fail to treat the source of the problem. This can lead to unnecessary medical treatment, needless suffering, and inability to return to normal life. 

Philadelphia and Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys After Negligent Surgery

A medical malpractice lawsuit for a left-behind surgical item may allow you to recover damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you suffered an injury after a surgeon left behind an object after surgery, you should talk to an attorney who will fight to get you compensation. Call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.


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