Leaving foreign objects in the body sounds like a horrific occurrence, but it happens more often than you may think. According to the author of a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), it occurs in 1,500 surgical patients every year in the United States. It may sound like a lot, but in reality, it is just a fraction of the more than 28 million inpatient operations performed every year in the U.S.
Having this happen affects not only the patient, but also the doctor. Having foreign objects stuck in a person’s body can cause serious health effects, and a doctor responsible for this problem can face a costly surgical malpractice lawsuit.
Types of Foreign Objects in Body
Any type of surgical instrument or equipment is fair game for getting left inside a patient’s body. Sponges are among the most common objects left inside the body. They are often covered in blood and could be mistaken for body tissue. Clamps, retractors and electrodes also have been left behind, along with a host of other instruments and materials used during the procedure.
These objects can cause serious health problems, such as obstructions, vomiting, diarrhea, infections and extreme pain. In most cases, another surgery is required to remove the object. Foreign objects are most commonly left in the abdominal area but could be left in any area where the surgery was performed.
Being a victim of surgical malpractice can leave a person feeling hurt and outraged. If you are a victim, review your case with a medical malpractice attorney in Cleveland. A lawyer can assess your case and advise you of the types of compensation you may be able to recover in a claim.
What Increases the Risk?
Although leaving foreign objects in the body can happen during any surgical procedure, there are situations and factors that could increase the risk. These include:
- Emergency procedures – In a high-pressure situation, time could be of the essence. Hurrying through a procedure may lead to surgical mistakes. In fact, having an emergency procedure performed can increase the risk by as much as 900 percent, according to the study in the NEJM.
- Being overweight – The study points out that a higher body mass index and obesity can make it easier for doctors to leave foreign objects in the body.
- Unexpected complications – When a procedure does not go as smoothly as planned, complications can arise. They can raise stress levels and cause disorganization during surgery.
- Lack of organization – In order to prevent leaving foreign objects in the body, hospitals should have procedures in place to account for all surgical instruments and equipment. For example, sponges should be counted before and after the surgery to ensure they are all accounted for.
Even when procedures are in place and are followed properly, mistakes still may occur. The study points out that these risk factors, and not negligence, may be to blame for some of these errors in which an object is left behind. If the healthcare professionals followed the standard of care expected of them, and mistakes occurred anyway, surgical malpractice may not be present. However, if there was some deviation from that standard, then negligence may, in fact, be present.
Contacting Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Cleveland, Ohio
Any surgery has its risks, and they should be discussed thoroughly with the doctor prior to the procedure. But if you suffered because of the doctor’s negligence, then you may have a case of surgical malpractice. At Mellino Law Firm LLC, a medical malpractice attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, can review your case and discuss your legal options if a foreign object is left in your body. Contact us at (440) 333-3800.