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How often do surgeons leave objects in patients?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Firm News |

Surgery is sometimes necessary to facilitate recovery from a serious illness or injury. However, that doesn’t take away from the potential complications that may arise after an operation. Among them, retained surgical bodies (RSB) or items left inside the patient, stands out as a particularly distressing experience. Apart from being life-threatening, these foreign objects may entail additional surgery to remove.

In the United States alone, there are about 1,500 cases per year related to foreign objects left behind during surgery. Though rare, they represent a serious issue within surgical practice.

RSB is often the result of poor communication or organization within the surgical staff. In addition, it can pose a serious health risk to the patient, potentially resulting in infection, discomfort and organ damage. Patients may require additional surgery, subjecting their body to more stress. In addition, affected patients could lose their trust in the healthcare system.

Risk factors of retained surgical bodies (RSB)

Complex procedures that involve the use of more surgical instruments increase the risk of RSB, such as in the case of obese patients and trauma surgeries. Unexpected developments that occur during the procedure and emergency operations can also contribute to foreign objects being left in the patient.

Among the many objects found in patients are sponges, retractors and other surgical instruments. What makes it challenging to detect is that symptoms of RSB do not always manifest immediately. It can be months or even years before a patient realizes that a surgical item inside them is causing their pain.

The prospect of undergoing surgery is a stressful enough experience. Patients must entrust their well-being to the surgical team. Should a patient later discover a foreign object left inside them from the procedure, they may have grounds to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.