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Hospitals aren't doing enough to prevent lost surgical instruments

We've discussed it before on this blog. However, it appears that some hospitals in New York City and beyond aren't doing enough to prevent surgical instruments from being left inside patients during surgery.

Studies show that surgical instruments and sponges are being left inside patients between 4,500 and 6,000 times each year. Some hospitals have taken steps to prevent these kinds of surgical errors.

For instance, the world-renowned Mayo Clinic has implemented a program in which surgical sponges are scanned before and after surgery to be sure they are accounted for. The technology has worked. For four years now, Mayo Clinic has not left a surgical sponge inside a patient.

One woman knows first-hand how devastating a lost surgical instrument can be. The woman had a cesarean section performed in 2010. Six weeks after the surgery it was discovered that a surgical sponge had been left inside her. She had a second surgery to remove the sponge and was hospitalized for three weeks. Sadly, she says she doesn't expect to ever fully recover.

Cost is a big reason why so many hospitals are reluctant to use new technologies. Sponge-tracking systems, for instance, can cost between $8 and $12 for each operation.

However, no one can put a price tag on a person's health. Therefore, hospitals need to take measures to prevent major surgical errors. People who have a surgical instrument left inside them can experience serious and sometimes fatal complications. Patients can suffer for the rest of their lives even after they have surgery to remove a lost surgical instrument.

People should not have to endure multiple surgeries and years of pain because of errors made by medical professionals. When major medical mistakes are made, New York City residents and others elsewhere would be wise to investigate what legal options they have.

Source: USA Today, "What surgeons leave behind costs some patients dearly," Peter Eisler, March 8, 2013

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