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How objects are left inside surgical patients

Every year in the U.S., some 4,500 to 6,000 surgical patients leave the hospital with a foreign object inside their body. Michigan residents should know that the two most common objects are sponges and needles. Also common are scalpels, forceps, surgical masks and gloves, clamps, tubes and measuring devices.

Leaving a foreign object in someone’s body is a mistake that can lead to health issues. Sponges and surgical implements can cause infection, for example, as well as fever, swelling and damage to internal organs. Death may occur in some cases. On the other hand, some patients will go for months or years without realizing an object is inside them and never see harm.

This mistake more often occurs in patients with a high body mass index. Other factors, such as the presence of multiple surgical teams for one procedure and unexpected changes during the procedure, can raise the risk. The greater the loss of blood, the more likely that sponges, for example, will be lost inside the body.

At bottom, human error is almost always to blame as the nurses or technicians may fail to keep track of implements through fatigue or distraction. Technology can be used to prevent a great many mistakes along these lines: for example, sponge-tracking technology and sponges with radio-frequency identification tags.

If a surgical implement in the body winds up injuring patients, then they may be able to hold the other side responsible for medical malpractice. This refers to the failure of doctors or other medical professionals to live up to an objective standard of care. It takes a lot to argue a malpractice claim, so victims might consider hiring a lawyer. The lawyer may negotiate for a reasonable settlement covering things like medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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Goethel Engelhardt, PLLC

3049 Miller Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

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