New System Offers Extra Precautions Against Leaving Objects in Bodies After Surgery

By March 10, 2010 July 18th, 2019 Medical Malpractice

As a Missouri medical malpractice attorney, I was interested in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about a system for preventing “retained objects” in surgery. “Retained objects” is another way of saying tools, sponges, or other items used in surgery and left inside the patient’s body. Hospital staff should account for all such items before completing a surgery and sewing up a patient’s incision, but for various reasons, they sometimes fail to do so successfully. While good data are hard to come by on this topic, researchers published in the New England Journal of Medicine say that there is about one case of “retained objects” per year per large hospital, though the real figure may be higher. These retained objects can cause blockages, pain, infections, and even death.
The Post-Dispatch article describes a new system in which all items used in surgery — including gauze, sponges, and instruments — are implanted with an RF seed that can be detected with a scanning wand. At the conclusion of surgery, before closing the patient up, hospital staff can wave the scanning wand over the patient to find out if any surgical items have inadvertently been left inside the patient’s body. If so, the wand beeps an alert and the staff members have to find the missing item before they can complete the operation. This method adds a cost of about $15 per surgery, but it provides a firewall against retained objects that other methods lack. For example, nurses count all surgical items before closing up a patient to ensure that no items were left inside the patient’s body. But according to Kim Stache, the administrative director of surgical services at the Naperville, Ill., Edward Hospital, in the large majority of cases of sponges being left inside patients, nurses’ counts showed that all surgical items had been accounted for. The retained objects in these cases would go unnoticed until the patient began experiencing complications.
Edward Hospital is one of over 100 hospitals currently using the RF system. Among these hospitals, there have been no cases of retained objects over the past two years. As a southern Illinois medical malpractice attorney, I am glad to know that some hospitals are choosing to take extra precautions against retained objects. Surgical errors such as retained objects have serious consequences for patients, who may suffer debilitating pain and infections for years. A hospital staff’s surgical error may result in a patient’s having countless medical appointments and high medical costs, which may not be covered by health insurance, to treat the problems caused by retained objects or other negligence.
The St. Louis medical malpractice lawyers at Carey, Danis & Lowe help victims of surgical errors and health care provider negligence to recover these costs from those who caused them. We can help victims claim all of their costs, including lost income from not working and all future medical costs. Victims may also claim damages for personal losses, such as a permanent disability or the loss of a loved one.
Carey, Danis & Lowe offers free, confidential case evaluations to all potential clients. To set one up, please contact us through our site or call 1-877-678-3400 today.