The family of a man who died during an operation to remove a surgical sponge left inside him after a previous procedure has filed a wrongful death suit in district court in Iowa.
Aldrick Kneppe, 89, died three days after the first surgery in Waterloo, Iowa. The original procedure was for a heart bypass and heart valve replacement. After that procedure, when it was discovered that a sponge had been left inside him during the surgery, he was scheduled for a surgery to remove it. During this second surgery, severe bleeding and other complications led to his death.
The combination wrongful-death and medical malpractice suit names Dr. James Wright III, Allen Hospital and Cedar Valley Medical Specialists as defendants in the case. The defendants have stated for the record that they believe they are not to blame, and that Kneppe actually died from several pre-existing conditions rather than as a result of the sponge and the surgery to remove it.
Leaving foreign objects in a patient following a surgery is rare. Procedures exist to prevent such an occurrence. One such procedure is a sponge count, in which the number of sponges available for a procedure is prescribed ahead of time, and this number is supposed to be verified following the procedure. Other steps such as XRays and other screening methods can severely reduce the risk of such an occurrence happening. In the cases where such an event is missed, however, the consequences can be grave, up to and including the risk of severe infection that can itself cause death.
According to a 2003 study, approximately 1,500 cases of surgery a year in the United States result in a sponge left in the patient’s body. Nearly 88% of such cases were determined to be the result of an improper sponge count following the procedure.
No dates have yet been set for the suit.