Retained Surgical Items Lawsuits Involving Surgical Errors

Retained Surgical Item Claims

Houston Medical Malpractice Attorneys Who’ve Won Billions

If a surgeon forgets to remove needles, scalpels, clamps, or any other tool after completing a surgery, you have suffered from a retained surgical instrument (also referred to as a retained foreign body). If a surgeon fails to remove a sponge, pad, or towel, the injury is referred to as gossypiboma. Unlike other forms of medical malpractice, RSI is always the result of negligence, so it is unacceptable in the operating room.

Retained surgical items can cause the following problems:

  • Puncture vital organs
  • Pierce blood vessels
  • Cause severe infections
  • Calcify the cavity or internal walls
  • Follow-up surgery to remove RSIs

The issue is more common than people know, especially as one surgery uses hundreds of sponges. Retained surgical item (RSI) occurs in 1 to 3 in 5,500 to procedures annually. With more than 51 million procedures conducted a year, this represents a high number of RSIs.

However, there is no excuse for retained surgical items. RSI is 1 of 27 “never events” listed by the National Quality Forum. These are medical malpractice events that should never occur under any circumstances. For an example of the severity of these events, wrongful amputation is named on the never event list, with surgery on the wrong patient, infant discharged to the wrong parents, and other life-altering mistakes.

To prevent RSI, hospitals must have protocols in place, and hospital staff must abide by these protocols. If they fail to abide by these protocols, innocent patients suffer. Contact our Houston medical malpractice lawyers.

How to Avoid Leaving Behind Foreign Objects

Surgeons are supposed to use special precautions, like counting all surgical tools before and after an operation, to avoid leaving a patient with a retained surgical instrument. If a surgeon or member of the surgical team is tired, employs a poor counting system, or fails to realize that several surgical tools, like sponges, have stuck together, they may close up a patient without realizing they have left behind foreign objects.

To avoid a pharmaceutical injury like this, surgeons should count instruments—particularly sponges, which are prone to sticking:

  • Before a procedure begins
  • Before a cavity is closed up
  • Before a wound is stitched
  • When the skin is completely closed/at the end of a procedure

Hospital staff should also inspect surgical instruments for evidence of breakage. In some cases, a piece of a medical instrument can be left inside a patient. The Joint Commission also cites that a leading cause of RSI is the poor communication between lower-ranking staff and the surgeon. They recommend giving any staff member the power to call a “closing time out,” where the entire operating theater pauses in order to take an account of all the instruments and sponges currently in use before closing the surgical cavity.

What You Can Do After An Injury

Retained surgical instruments and gossypibomas can present serious health risks. A retained surgical instrument may result in an internal infection or a fibrinous response (interruption of normal clotting). Retained surgical instruments can also require both follow-up surgery to remove the object, or emergency surgery if the object causes severe internal damage or internal bleeding. If not initially noticed, retained instruments could be misdiagnosed as tumors or dangerous growth, resulting in unnecessary, costly, and invasive procedures.

These procedures are not only costly, but cause undue emotional distress. In 2012, a New York Times article reported about a woman who became the victim of RSI when sponges were left in her body after a hysterectomy. The sponge caused a severe infection that required surgeons to resection her bowel. Aside from physical injury, the article reported that she suffered from anxiety, depression, and social isolation.

Gossypibomas and retained surgical items speak for themselves, providing clear evidence of negligence on the part of the surgeon, his or her team, and the hospital where the procedure took place. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a retained surgical instrument, you may be entitled to compensation. Our attorneys have been successful in holding major healthcare providers responsible for their mistakes.

Contact our Houston medical malpractice attorneys for a free case consultation. We can help you hold negligent hospital staff accountable for your medical costs, damages, and pain.

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