According to some reports, medical mistakes are the third-leading cause of the death in the United States. One thing that’s certainly true is that medical mistakes do happen, and patients suffer as a result. One type of medical mistake that’s of growing concern is the act of a retained foreign object – one left inside a patient post-surgery. A medical malpractice attorney is who to call if this type of mistake happens to you or a loved one.
Frequency of Foreign Objects Found After Surgery
The exact number of patients who are victims of foreign objects left inside of them during a surgery is unknown – some patients may be unaware of the foreign objects after surgery, or cases may go unreported. However, the Joint Commission reports that from 2006 to 2013, there were 770 voluntary reports of unintended retention of foreign objects (URFO) cases, and researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that from 2003 to 2006, the rate of a retained foreign object during surgery was one out of every 5,500 operations.
Common Foreign Objects Left Behind
During surgery, there are some items that have a greater chance of being left behind than others. For example, some of the most commonly forgotten items include the following.
- Sponges (68 percent of retained objects in one study)
- Device components and fragments
- Needles or sharps
- Malleable retractors
- Other surgical instruments
When an object is left inside a patient, it can lead to serious complications and severe patient harm.
Patient Harm Caused by Retained Foreign Objects is Preventable
The majority of foreign objects are left in the abdominal cavity of a patient, although the thoracic cavity is also a possibility. One of the greatest risks that a retained foreign object, such as sponge, poses to a patient after surgery is the risk of infection. Organ failure and even death are also possibilities. When a foreign object is retained in a body cavity, the patient has a high likelihood of requiring a second surgery to correct the error. Second surgeries often force a patient to miss work and present a whole new set of risks associated with the surgery.
However, all of the harm mentioned above is completely preventable. Foreign objects are often left in patients simply as a result of surgery staff negligence and carelessness, and preventing objects from being left in a patient could be as simple as taking the time to count sponges/objects/tools pre- and post-surgery. Communication among surgeons and nurses, surgery notes, and organization all could be improved.
Liability for Harm Caused by a Retained Foreign Object
If a foreign object is left inside a patient during a surgery, and if the patient suffers harm as a result, then the surgeon who performed the surgery (or anyone else who played a role in the presence of the retained foreign object) may be held liable for damages. The patient can collect damages by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for damages within two years following the discovery of the object/the date the harm occurred, and proving that healthcare negligence occurred, and that the negligence was the direct cause of patient harm. There are no caps on any damages in the state of Pennsylvania for medical malpractice claims with the exception of a cap on punitive damages.
Why do I need a medical malpractice attorney?
An attorney can do more than just provide you with the legal basis for filing a claim and the how-to for recovering compensation. An attorney can provide you with the support and advocacy that you’re looking for when making the difficult decision about whether or not to file a claim against a healthcare provider. At Cordisco & Saile LLC, our surgical error attorneys understand the emotional commitment and energy that filing a claim takes and are ready to guide you through the process. To learn more about our team today and what we can do for you, call us at 215-642-2335 now.