When you have a health condition that requires surgery, there are certain errors that the medical community and general public agree should never occur. These so-called never events, include surgical errors that are entirely preventable - such as retained surgical objects.
Unfortunately, a study conducted by USA Today revealed that surgical objects are left inside patients on thousands of occasions every year in the United States. While that figure may seem small in comparison to the48 million operations performed in the U.S. every year, as every retained object could have been prevented, the number should be closer to zero.
According to the report, sponges are the most common surgical item that doctors and medical professionals fail to remove. While sponges may seem like relatively innocuous objects to be left inside the body - compared to other surgical objects such as scalpels - the consequences of a retained sponge can be serious and even life threatening.
The USA Today study revealed that surgical objects are retained in the bodies of patients during operations between 4,500 to 6,000 times annually. Considering the fact that hospitals could take action to prevent these severe surgical errors, those statistics seems especially high.
What can hospitals do to prevent these surgical errors?
To reduce or eliminate the number of retained surgical sponges each year, hospitals can implement a variety of safety procedures. Many hospitals already conduct counts before, during and after surgery - to ensure every surgical sponge they start out with is accounted for at the end of the surgery before the procedure is completed.
Other options are available, however, which have proven to be even more effective than counting, which still allows for human error. Hospitals could invest in sponges that include electronic tracking devices. Sponges are often difficult to detect in the body, after they have fulfilled their purpose of absorbing blood and other bodily fluids.
The tracking devices allow medical personnel to scan the body before the surgery is completed. If a sponge is still inside the body, the scanner will detect the tracking device inside the sponge, alerting the medical professionals before the patient is closed.
Unfortunately, even though the sponges with electronic tracking systems cost only $8 to $12 more per surgery, many hospitals have yet to incorporate the technology.
Medical expenses associated with retained surgical objects typically reach over $60,000, as these patients require additional surgeries followed by time to recuperate in the hospital.
If you or a loved one has suffered from a surgical error, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm caused. Seeking the advice of a skilled medical malpractice attorney will ensure your rights are protected.