One of the most common types of medical malpractice may be avoided if special care is taken by a physician, surgeon, doctor, or a nurse. When surgical instruments such as sponges are left inside a patient's body by mistake during surgery, it is deemed as medical malpractice. It is also referred to as "textiloma" or "gossypiboma" case or a case of retained surgical devices.
These surgical instruments, when left behind in a patient, can lead to many serious complications such as infection, pain, and in some cases, even death. According to a 2011 study presented in the World Journal of Surgery, the United States sees an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 retained surgical instrument cases a year.
What constitutes retained surgical devices?
A case of retained surgical devices may occur while a patient is being treated in a hospital and has undergone a surgery. These are foreign bodies that were left behind in a patient's body by mistake, such as tweezers, sponges, needles, towels, scalpels, knife blades, scissors, clamps, safety pins, forceps, scopes, suction tubes and tips, and many other such devices. The most common item to be left behind are sponges and they are most likely to be left behind in a patient's abdomen. A ribbon retractor is the most frequently reported retained instrument.
How to avoid it?
There are many ways to avoid a medical malpractice case of retained surgical devices. For instance, surgical instruments containing trace materials which show up on X-rays should be used, accurate sponge-counts should be conducted prior to, during and after surgery and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags should be attached to surgical instruments.
What's the next step?
At the very least, a patient will have to undergo another surgery to eliminate and remove the item that was left behind. If the item is found to do no harm to a patient, the surgical team is under no obligation to report the incident. That is why the retained surgical devices cases that are reported are far less than the ones that actually occur. But regardless of this, the fact is that leaving a foreign body or a surgical instrument inside a patient's body might be grounds for a medical malpractice case, as certain negligence caused possible serious harm to a patient.
For patients and their families who have been victim of a case such as this, their only option is to seek financial compensation for emotional, physical and financial harm that was imposed on them through a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit.
What are your legal rights regarding retained surgical devices?
It is important that medical professionals meet a recognized standard of care. In fact, it is their duty to do so. Patients and their families have a right to seek financial compensation if these medical professionals do not live up to this duty. If a patient has been a victim of retained surgical devices, they may seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering as well as other damages through a wrongful deal or personal injury medical malpractice lawsuit.