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Items left behind after surgery are a real threat, not a punchline

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

The idea that a medical professional with years of training and hands-on experience would do something as ridiculous as leaving a tool behind in a patient seems like a joke to many people. There are numerous layers of protection in place to prevent such mistakes.

Surgeons typically have multiple members of support staff there with them in the operating room. Hospital paperwork also typically requires that they account for every single tool and strip of gauze utilized during the operation. In theory, the precision involved in a surgical procedure would preclude the possibility of a medical professional closing someone’s incision up with foreign objects still inside their body.

Unfortunately, such mistakes occur with frightening frequency in the United States. Foreign bodies create two serious risks for the patients who experience these major mistakes.

The risk of traumatic injury

Sharp scalpels and strong clamps used during surgical procedures can easily hurt human tissue. Especially when left inside human body, it may only take someone sitting up for those foreign objects to cause massive internal injuries.

Revision procedures are necessary as quickly as possible when there are hard or rigid objects left behind after a surgery, as those objects could cause life-threatening traumatic injuries in a matter of moments.

The increased risk of infection

Surgeons are more likely to leave gauze and cotton swabs in a patient than to drop a scalpel or a pair of forceps. You might imagine that these softer items would be a minor concern. After all, cotton is biodegradable, and gauze will move with the body.

While it may not cause a traumatic injury, even a small piece of gauze or similar soft material left behind after a surgery could lead to a severe infection. Those items may be sterile when first unwrapped for utilization in the surgery, but they may have contaminants on them by the end of the procedure.

Beyond that, the body will recognize the foreign object as a threat and attack it. Typically, revision procedures will be necessary even if the item left behind doesn’t present an immediate threat of traumatic injury.

Those affected by a surgical mistake could require another procedure and may have a very lengthy recovery ahead of them. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit after a surgical error can help limit the effect of that mistake on your life.