Foreign Object Inside The Body: Negligently Leaving Foreign Objects after Surgery
In a 21st century dominated by technology and medical advances, patients who are scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure generally expect that the surgery will be performed skillfully, competently and without complication. One of the most disturbing, but not altogether uncommon, surgical errors that occurs is when a surgeon leaves a foreign object inside the body after performing an operation. This negligence can, in some instances, lead to a number of dangerous health complications including life–threatening infections, internal bleeding, nerve injury, and extreme pain or discomfort. In our experience, the most common foreign bodies that are left inside bodies are sponges, needles, gauze, metal clamps, and sometimes, surgical instruments. Typically, the retention of surgical sponges probably occurs the most frequently of all foreign bodies that are left inside patients following a surgical procedure. Naturally, when these objects are left inside a person's body, a second invasive procedure is necessary to remove them, thereby resulting in additional hospitalization, prolonged wound healing and recovery time, missed work, increased medical expenses and physical/emotional pain and suffering. In addition, some patients become extremely ill and develop complications resulting from the foreign body being left inside their body. These illnesses can progress to extremely debilitating conditions that end up costing a patient dearly.
It has been suggested that issues of communication in the operating room are at the heart of the problem of retained foreign bodies because of misunderstandings; i.e., cross-cultural (nurse to a surgeon), heirarchical (captain and crew) or structural (medical staff vs. hospital staff). There can also be a wide divide between the levels of training and experience among different people working together as an OR staff and styles of communication may be different. These differences should be manageable, however, as retained foreign bodies are generally regarded as a "never" event, meaning that they should never happen absent negligence on the part of someone.
As experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice attorneys, we have successfully settled or received favorable trial verdicts arising out of a surgeon's negligence in leaving a foreign object inside the body following surgery in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas. These cases, however, require a complete and detailed understanding of the appropriate pre–operative and operative procedures of each of the various health care providers who are involved in the particular surgery. For example, in every surgical procedure, the health care providers are responsible for ensuring that there is an initial count of all of the surgical instruments, sponges, clamps, towels that will be utilized during the surgery. At the completion of the surgery, at least one health care provider is charged with ensuring that the same number of instruments or surgical devices have been removed from the surgical field. Failure to accurately document this count can lead to a foreign object being retained inside the body.