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How often do surgical instruments get left behind?

It’s natural for people going into surgery to feel anxious about the procedure. Although most surgeries go as planned there are some surgeries where there are unexpected complications. One way in which this can occur is when a surgeon leaves surgical instruments in a patient.

It may seem like an improbable scenario but leaving surgical instruments in a patient is not unheard of. It is reported that there are over 1,500 surgeries each year where surgical instruments are left inside a patient. The most common surgeries where this occur is abdomen, retroperitoneum and pelvis.

What are the reasons?

There are many reasons why surgical instruments can be left behind in a patient. These include:

  • Human error is the number one reason why surgical instruments are left behind. The surgical instruments being used are supposed to be counted but due to fatigue, inexperience or improper management systems there can be a miscount.
  • Multiple surgeries being needed
  • Surgeries involving a lot of blood loss
  • Surgeries requiring more than one surgical team
  • If a patient has a larger body mass

If a patient has a surgical instrument left inside of them there are many side effects that can occur, some of them serious. Infection, digestive problems, fever, swelling and obstructions are common. In addition, a patient will need to go through another risky surgery to have the instrument removed.

Grounds for a medical malpractice claim

If a patient has been injured by a negligent physician, they may want to speak with a legal professional who is skilled in medical malpractice. An attorney can review medical records and consult with medical experts to help determine what happened and who is at fault. Compensation may be available for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other damages.