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Surgical Sponges or Towels Left Inside Patients

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Editors note:

Please see a series of prior articles on this topic:

Sponges, Knives, Needles Left in Body-Virginia/Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawyers Discuss the Law

Retained surgical sponges: a known medical error
Surgical Sponges/Towels Left Inside The Patient Body: Using New RFID Technology To Prevent Medical Malpractice, Improve Patient Safety

Every year in the United States thousands of patients undergo surgical procedures without complication. However, of those thousands of people, approximately 1,500 people have complications with surgical objects being accidentally left inside of them after the procedure. The most common object that is left behind after surgery are surgical sponges, which can cause medical problems such as pain, inflammation, bowel obstruction, additional surgeries and longer hospital stays. In some rare cases, objects being left inside patients can even cause death.

Surgical sponges are one of the objects most commonly left behind (approximately two thirds of all cases involve surgical sponges) as they can look almost indistinguishable from the surrounding tissue and blood. Researchers at the Loyola University medical center are working to prevent these potentially deadly accidents. Loyola is the first Midwest medical center to use a tracking system to monitor all sponges that are used and removed during surgery.

The sponge tracking system can be related closely to a grocery store check out system. A sponge must be scanned in, and scanned out as it introduced and removed from the body. Each sponge is given a bar code, so they are all unique and can be accounted for after the surgery is over. With some of the more complex surgeries requiring hundreds of sponges, and the fast paced environment of intrusive surgery, sponges can be forgotten without a tracking system such as this.

This system, now approved by the FDA, is being used in all of the operating rooms of the Loyola medical center. Although this new technology has not replaced the traditional method of hand counting, they are both used to ensure no complications or foreign objects are left behind in the patient. If you or anyone you know has had a complication due to a medical procedure in which a foreign object was forgotten after surgery, please contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer immediately. Although new technologies such as this are being utilized more and more, complications may still arise from errors during surgery. Stay informed, and stay healthy.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia (VA), near the NE North Carolina (NC) border and handles car,truck,railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. Our lawyers proudly edit the Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono public information service. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY.