Every year, thousands of patients suffer serious, life threatening injuries
as a result of retained medical items. This is the term used for when
hospitals leave sponges and other items in patients’ bodies during
the course of surgical procedures.
According to a recent
report by USA TODAY, which reviewed government data, academic studies, and legal
records, incidents involving retained medical items are much higher than
suggested by the statistics published by the federal government. This
is because the federal government does not require hospitals to file a
report when a retained medical item event occurs.
According to data compiled by the federal government, retained medical
items occur during 3,000 to 6,000 surgical procedures each year. However,
the USA TODAY report suggested that the number of occurrences is actually
closer to 4,500 to 6,000.
We’ve all heard stories about medical professionals leaving behind
hardware such as forceps and clamps in patients after surgical procedures.
However, these are not the most commonly left behind items. More often,
it is cotton sponges that are inserted in patients’ bodies to soak
up blood and other fluids during surgery which are left behind. In fact,
sponges account for approximately two-thirds of retained medical items.
RETAINED MEDICAL ITEMS ARE RANKED AS THE MOST SERIOUS CATEGORY OF MEDICAL ERRORS
Over a decade ago, the National Quality Forum issued a report which found
that retained sponges and other medical instruments ranked as the most
serious category of medical errors. The report recommended that the Federal
government require mandatory reporting of this type of medical error by
hospitals. However, no such mandates have been put in place and retained
sponges and other medical instruments remain a serious cause of medical
INJURIES RESULTING FROM RETAINED MEDICAL ITEMS ARE DANGEROUS, BUT PREVENTABLE
Patients suffer serious injuries when medical professionals leave behind
sponges and other items in their bodies during surgical procedures. Reported
injuries include intense pain, digestive dysfunction, and deadly infections.
In some cases, retained sponges can lead to loss of patients’ intestines
and even death.
The cost of injuries resulting from lost sponges and other medical instruments
is also staggering. For example, the average cost of hospitalization resulting
from this type of medical error is approximately $60,000.
Hospitals can access inexpensive sponge tracking technologies that drastically
reduce the number of trained sponges and other medical items. However,
few have chosen to take advantage of these resources. A survey of companies
that manufacture these products suggest that fewer than 15 percent of
hospitals have invested in these tracking devices. This is shocking considering
that utilizing the technology only adds approximately $8 to $12 to the
cost of each operation and has the potential to prevent thousands of injuries
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ATTORNEYS CAN HELP YOU RECEIVE COMPENSATION FOR YOUR INJURIES
If you or a loved one has suffered from injuries resulting from a retained
medical item, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney
will be able to help you preserve your legal rights and obtain the compensation