With every surgery comes the risk of an unintentionally retained object. These objects are often sponges, malleable retractors, towels, needles, catheters, and other such instruments. They are accidentally left within the patient’s body after the surgery is complete.
Experts warn that they can cause an enormous amount of harm. They could lead to infection, perforation, damage to nearby body parts, unexplained pain, and even death.
To keep this from happening, medical teams have to work together. It’s best to address the problem on multiple fronts. For example, simply counting all of the surgical items, both before and after the procedure, can help. However, any human process — like counting — can lead to errors. The busy environment of the medical center only makes this more likely. If a doctor miscounts the items, he or she may determine that they’ve all been removed when one has really been left behind.
So, in addition to counting, team members should work hard to keep one another accountable. Pointing out possible mistakes should not be seen as a negative, but as a necessary part of patient care. Some nurses feel nervous to tell doctors that they think a mistake has been made, for instance, but a hospital culture that encourages them to speak up and empowers them can be far safer.
When negligence leads to a surgical item being left behind, patients could face serious pain and suffering, high medical costs to remove the item, extended healing times when they can work, and more. It’s important for these patients to know if they have a right to compensation.
Source: Infection Control Today, “Preventing Retained Surgical Items is a Team Effort,” Kelly M. Pyrek, March 31, 2017