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Medical professionals use a wide array of instruments when performing surgery. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, around 4,500 to 6,000 sponges and other surgical instruments are left in patients’ bodies each year, which can lead to serious complications or death. If you or a loved one has had surgery and an item was left inside your body, a local medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate your case and advise you of your options.

What is Medical Negligence?

All healthcare providers, hospitals, and surgery centers have a duty of care to provide treatment according to a reasonable standard of care that similar medical professionals would provide. When they fail to meet that duty, it may be considered medical negligence.

In a medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that the health care provider did not meet that duty of care, that they suffered damages, and that the provider’s actions were the direct cause of their injuries. While cases involving retained surgical instruments may seem straightforward, good medical malpractice lawyers know that sometimes they can be challenging to win.

Commonly Retained Surgical Items

Surgical sponges are the most common items left inside the body. There are several reasons for this.  For example, a surgeon may go through 40 or 50 of them during one operation, and they can be hard to see when soaked in blood. Although hospitals have protocols in place to prevent this from happening, it most commonly occurs during emergency surgeries or when unexpected complications arise. Some other items and instruments that have been left inside patients’ bodies include:

  • Scalpels
  • Forceps
  • Clamps
  • Scissors
  • Drain tips
  • Needles
  • Tubes
  • Scopes
  • Measuring devices
  • Surgical gloves and masks
  • Gauze

Why Surgical Instruments May be Left Behind

In addition to the chaos of emergencies or complications during surgery, other factors may increase the risk of retained surgical items. Sponges or instruments may be counted incorrectly due to fatigue or faulty management systems, and when multiple surgeries are needed or procedures involve more than one surgical team, the chances of instruments being left behind increase.

Complications of Retained Surgical Instruments

Retained surgical items can result in a wide range of complications, including internal bleeding and permanent injury or disability. Surgical sponges left inside can break down, collect bacteria, and cause ulceration that may eventually become life-threatening.

Blades, scalpels, and other instruments with sharp edges can cause organ and blood vessel punctures as well. Pain in the abdominal, pelvic or chest area, fever, swelling, digestive issues, nausea, and weight loss are common symptoms of retained surgical instruments or sponges.

Recovering Damages in Medical Malpractice Claims

In most cases, when a retained surgical instrument is detected, additional surgery is required to remove it. This can lead to exorbitant medical costs, pain, and significant recovery time. The best medical malpractice attorneys in Pennsylvania can evaluate your claim and may be able to help you recover damages such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning potential if an injury leaves you disabled
  • Anticipated future needs, such as nursing care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Other damages specific to your claim

If you have lost a loved one due to retained surgical instruments, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim against responsible parties.

Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers in Chester County, PA understand how to accurately value your claim and fight to hold negligent medical professionals and hospitals accountable so you can heal and move-on with your life.