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What surgeons leave behind

When you enter the operating room to have a procedure performed, you place your life in the capable hands of the well-trained and experienced surgical staff. Upon leaving the OR, however, you may be unknowingly taking home a souvenir from your operation. Surprisingly, medical instruments, such as surgical gauze, forceps and other equipment, have been left behind in patients’ surgical sites. It is only when the patient experiences severe pain after the surgery that medical professionals may discover the object that has been stitched up within the patient.  

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins and published in Surgery found that foreign objects are left inside patients during surgical procedures at least 39 times every week throughout the United States. These preventable medical errors can cause severe infection, permanent injury and even death to unsuspecting patients. In one case, a woman had to have part of her intestine removed after x-rays showed a surgical sponge that had been left behind after a procedure. The sponge, which was used during the procedure to soak up excess bodily fluids around the surgical site, had adhered to the outside of the intestine and caused a massive infection.

Hospitals across the United States have implemented various methods of accounting for the medical equipment before, during and after the procedure as a way to prevent objects being left inside patients. The traditional method of performing multiple counts of the equipment during various stages of surgery has proven to be inaccurate at times. New technology involving bar codes and scanning devices is hoped to be more successful at helping surgical staff avoid these catastrophic medical mistakes.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice. 

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