How Can Surgery Mistakes Affect Patients?
Last week we wrote about ‘never events’, surgery mistakes that injure and kill patients. One type of surgery mistake occurs when surgeons leave objects such as sponges and surgical equipment inside of patients. Estimates by the journal JAMA Surgery suggest that during 1 in 100,000 surgeries, surgeons leave something behind inside of patients.
The medical community refers to items left behind during surgery as “retained surgical items”. An estimated 4,000 retained surgical items are reported in the United States every year.
So what happens to patients who have surgical sponges left inside of them? In 2006, a Florida county judge underwent surgery in Palm Beach, but surgeons left behind a sponge after completing the operation. For five months, the sponge sat inside his intestines before finally being removed. After five months, the sponge had trapped an infection, and part of his intestines had to be removed. Losing a portion of his intestines has left the judge always needing to be near a bathroom, making his job very difficult.
Another woman from Kentucky did not discover surgeons had left behind a sponge until four years later. In the four years leading up to the discovery of the sponge, the woman suffered from anxiety, depression and bowel problems that made work impossible. In 2009, the woman sued the hospital where the surgery was performed.
What Options Are Available For Patients Affected By Retained Surgical Items?
Retained surgical items are the most common type of surgery mistake, and the consequences can cause permanent damage to patients. Depending on the circumstances, patients and family members might have legal options for pursuing damages. Contacting a medical malpractice attorney will let patients and families know what options are available for recovering and moving forward.