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Retained Foreign Object

Retained Foreign Object

A foreign object unintentionally left inside a patient during a surgical procedure is an avoidable error. Although the operating room nurses are often responsible for maintaining an accurate count of all instruments, mistakes still occur. Foreign objects left in the body can lead to life threatening bacterial infections, organ damage and severe pain.

Common foreign objects include:

  • Surgical sponges
  • Knife blades
  • Cotton
  • Gauze
  • Needles
  • Safety pins
  • Electrosurgical adapters

Certain procedures have a higher risk for leaving foreign objects inside the body. In emergency surgeries and surgeries that lead to unexpected procedures, there is an increased possibility that a foreign object will be retained. According to the New England Journal of Medicine a recent study showed that in approximately 90% of cases resulting in a retained foreign object, a count was performed and showed that all equipment was accounted for.

The process by which surgical counts are performed is not standardized by the Joint Commission of Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Individual hospitals have developed their own procedures for counting. Sometimes in emergency situations the procedure is rushed or becomes confusing in the midst of all the activity. To complicate matters more, some surgeries involve the use of hundreds of sponges, tools and instruments.

Once a patient experiences symptoms that raise suspicion of a retained foreign object an X-ray, CT scan or other radiographic procedure will normally be used to evaluate the presence of such an object. The patient is taken back to surgery to have the object removed in hopes of minimizing damage. This situation often results in further hospitalizations for the patient, unnecessary surgeries, unsightly scars and additional expenses.

Retained foreign object cases require a thorough understanding of Kentucky Medical Malpractice laws.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error resulting in a retained foreign object, you are invited to contact Louisville medical malpractice attorney Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC today to discuss your legal rights.

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