What Happens when Surgical Sponges are Left Behind?

Surgeons often use sponges to keep body parts in place during an operation or to help suck up blood so that they can see what they are operating on. However, careless staff can neglect to remove a sponge once surgery is completed. This sponge, left behind, can cause problems down the road for patients.

Leaving a surgical sponge behind is considered a medical “never event,” meaning that it should never happen. However, sponges and other implements are left behind more than they should be, and patients might not know that a sponge remains inside until they experience pain, swelling or other problems years later.

Statistics on Implements Left Behind

Live Science published a story of a woman in Japan who went to her doctor to report bloating in her abdomen. A CT Scan revealed two structures in the paracolic gutters, which are spaces between the abdomen and the colon. The woman then had surgery to remove the objects.

What doctors found was startling—2 sponges encased in fibrous shells. The doctors believe that the sponges were inserted during one of the woman’s two c-sections, which she underwent 6 and 9 years prior.

These incidents happen more often than people would think. According to one study, a foreign body is left behind in 1 out of every 5,500 surgeries. Another estimate was 1 in every 18,700 surgeries. However, women who undergo gynecological surgery are at an increased risk of this particular never event, with one study finding that the risk increased 400%.

Avoiding these Mistakes

Surgeons and nurses can avoid leaving objects inside patients by making sure that they count the number inserted and then count them as they are removed. This counting should be included on any surgical checklist.

However, negligence can lead to mistakes. Whether careless, fatigued, or in a rush, many surgeons neglect to carefully account for all implements that they inserted during surgery. And patients could suffer incredible pain and inconvenience as a result of this medical malpractice. Indeed, a second surgery is required to actually remove whatever was left behind, which carries its own risks and expense.

Speak with a Miami Medical Malpractice Attorney

If surgeons left an implement behind after surgery, we can help. The lawyers at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein have sued many hospitals and surgeons for malpractice, including mistakes in the operating room. To meet with one of our lawyers, please call 305-371-2692 or send us a message online.