What are retained surgical items?

Thousands of people enter into operating rooms every year in the United States. Qualified, licensed surgeons and other medical professionals hold the trust of people as they undergo procedures as a way to save or improve their lives. If you have gone under the knife, you may know first-hand the feelings associated with putting your life in the hands of a medical professional. It may be hard to imagine leaving the operating room with a surgical instrument still inside your operating site. As horrible as this sounds, it happens more often than you may wish to think. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University shows that at least 4,000 people suffer from this form of medical malpractice every year.

Many of the items that are left behind in operating sites are surgical sponges. These gauze-like pads are used to soak up blood and other bodily fluids in surgical sites in order to make it easier for surgeons to see. The problem lies in the fact that when saturated with bodily fluids, surgical sponges can become hard to see and may get lost or adhere to other organs.

Surgical staff is responsible for counting all pieces of equipment before, during and after the procedure to ensure everything is accounted for. In some cases involving retained surgical items, the documents show staff counted all items before suturing. Yet, miscounts and outdated technology can lead to errors using this method. Some medical institutions have implemented new technology, using bar codes and other tracers, to ensure no items are left behind in surgical sites.

This information is intended to educate and should not be used as legal advice.

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