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How big is the risk of doctors forgetting something in a patient?

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2021 | Surgical Errors

Medical mistakes happen every day in America, and most of the time, they are minor. A nurse gives someone the wrong pills, or a doctor overlooks a symptom when trying to reach a diagnosis, often with no noticeable medical consequences.

However, other times, medical mistakes are catastrophic. Surgical mistakes have the potential to be among the most debilitating medical errors that occur. Anything from anesthesia errors to infections caused by a lack of sterilization could have severe medical consequences for a patient.

People overlook one of the most common surgical errors

One of the more common and serious medical mistakes associated with surgery is one people think is an urban legend. There have been so many popular media stories about surgeons leaving behind foreign objects in people’s bodies that people may actually think that they don’t happen at all.

Hundreds of foreign objects get left in patients every year. According to an analysis of medical records, about 1,500 patients will come out of an operation in the United States with a retained surgical body. While that may be a low overall error rate given the estimated 28 million procedures that occur, that still means that roughly 29 patients each week come out of a surgery with something left inside their bodies.

Modern surgeons don’t go into the operating room alone. They usually have a full staff of professionals there to oversee their actions and assist them. There are also paperwork requirements that mandate that surgeons track every item used in a procedure. Despite these precautions, many modern operations still end up with a patient retaining something inside their body that they should not.

What happens when a surgeon leaves something in a patient?

Retained foreign objects after a surgery can cause serious medical consequences. One of the biggest concerns is that if the object is rigid, it could cause internal trauma. A pair of scissors, for example, can cut through someone’s organs and cause fatal injuries. Even a piece of gauze left behind in an open incision could cause severe infection.

It is typically necessary to conduct a revision procedure after leaving behind a foreign object, which might increase someone’s risk of other complications and extend their recovery period. Surgical mistakes could cause medical issues and result in additional lost wages for the patients involved. Identifying surgical errors as a form of medical malpractice may be the first step toward getting the compensation you deserve after such a major mistake.