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 malpractice.
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 ever year.
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 you deserve.