Although surgical staff must follow special protocol to ensure all equipment is accounted for prior to, during and following a procedure, medical mistakes continue to occur. Updated technology is available to operating rooms across the country. However, many institutions are still at fault for leaving surgical items behind in patients’ incision sites. At least 4,000 times every year, patients leave the operating room with retained surgical items in their bodies.
The most frequent object left behind in patients are surgical sponges. These absorbent cloths are used to soak up bodily fluids from within the surgical site, making it easier for surgeons to see where they are operating. Once saturated, these sponges can easily become disguised next to an organ. If left within the patient, however, the patient is in jeopardy of getting a serious infection and may be forced to lose a portion of their infected organ.
In one case, a surgical sponge was left within a patient after she had a hysterectomy. Four years after the procedure, the sponge was found adhered to the woman’s bladder and stomach. The massive infection required a portion of the patient’s intestine to be removed, and she still suffers from serious bowel problems.
Surgical staff attempt to avoid this issue by performing manual counts of surgical equipment. In some instances where items were found left inside a patient, the manual count showed that every item was accounted for. New technology, such as barcode scanning, has been implemented in some facilities and healthcare professionals are hoping that it reduces the number of retained surgical items.