While every surgical operation involves some inherent risks, there are certain types of errors that patients should be able to assume will not take place during their surgery. For instance, when undergoing an operation, patients should not have to worry about surgeons and other medical professionals forgetting to remove all of the surgical equipment from their body before closing.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that such surgical errors are considered "never events" - in that they should never happen - sponges and other medical equipment are frequently left inside patients following operations.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, surgical items are actually left inside patients 39 times every week, on average, in the United States. These retained surgical items can have serious consequences for the patients involved - typically resulting in the need for additional surgeries and extended hospital stays.
While medical professionals have been known to leave a variety of tools inside patients following surgery, sponges are by far the most common. In total, sponges account for over two-thirds of all retained surgical objects, according to data from USA Today.
Hospitals can take steps to prevent such egregious errors
For many years, hospitals have implemented a checklist to ensure surgical objects were not retained following an operation. Medical professionals typically count the number of sponges being used before, during and after an operation to make certain they are all removed before the patient is closed.
Unfortunately, such counts are subject to human error and have not eliminated the problem of retained surgical objects. According to a report by the Joint Commission - a nonprofit organization - sponge counts are inaccurate in 10 to 15 percent of cases. Generally, when a sponge is left inside the patient, the medical professionals involved believe they had an accurate count.
Consequently, companies have created a new type of sponge that is meant to be easily detectable, even at the end of a surgical operation. The sponges include bar codes that are scanned before they are used in the operation. After the operation, a scanner can be used to ensure all of the sponges have been removed from the patient. As such sponges are more expensive than those without the scanning technology, though, not all hospitals have started using them.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a surgical error, the expenses associated with the medical professional's mistake can be significant. As a result, it is a good idea to seek the counsel of a skilled personal injury attorney, who will be able to advise you regarding the best course of action to recover damages to account for the injuries suffered.