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Retained Surgical Sponges Can Create Permanent Damage

When staff leave surgical sponges inside patients, it can cause serious damage that will impact them for the rest of their lives

There have been many advancements made in medicine, giving people in Morristown the ability to live longer and have a better quality of life. Despite these advancements, however, hospitals and doctors regularly cause harm to patients through events that are never supposed to occur.

Called ‘never events’, over 4,000 are estimated to occur in the U.S. on a yearly average. According to Medical News Today, a study conducted in 2012 discovered that in a 20-year period, over 80,000 never events happened in the U.S. One of these “never events” is retained surgical sponges.

Retained Surgical Sponges

During a surgical procedure, the operating staff uses sponges to soak up bodily liquids, including blood, around the incision site. A typical surgery might use 20 or more sponges and before the surgery is completed, staff are responsible for removing the sponges and doing a manual count to make sure that they are all accounted for. These sponges often resemble body tissue by the time that the surgery is finished, which makes it hard for staff to see them. As a result, they are often missed.

USA Today points out that this type of medical mistake happens every day and it can take months or years for the patient to realize that something is wrong. An earlier study found that manual counts of instruments and sponges were only accurate 77 percent of the time at one hospital.

Irreparable Damage

By the time the retained sponges are found, it is common for them to have become attached to body muscle and tissue. This development can result in
irreparable damage to the patient that includes the following:

  • Death from infections and other complications
  • Physical scars
  • Loss of intestines
  • Permanent digestive disorders
  • Permanent pain and discomfort

Additionally, victims of this error often struggle with emotional and mental issues, especially in cases where they will require medical treatment for the rest of their life for ongoing problems. These victims may have to undergo multiple surgeries just to get to a point where they can actually feel somewhat better, and this can put them under great financial strain. In many cases, they are no longer able to hold down jobs.

Hospitals Ignoring Tracking Technology

Despite the prevalence of the problem, hospitals are still choosing manual count methods over newer tracking technology. Hospitals cite cost as a concern, but in the long term, purchasing the systems could cost them just an additional $10 in surgical costs. That also doesn’t include the legal fees and liability costs they could save, since the hospitals who have implemented these systems have not yet found an error.

The technology consists of tracking devices which are placed into each sponge. Instead of a manual count, the staff simply moves a detector over the part of the body and if there is still a sponge inside, an alert is sounded.

When a hospital or medical professional in Morristown makes a mistake, it can impact patients for the rest of their lives. This can greatly reduce victims’ quality of life and present financial challenges. Therefore, victims of medical malpractice may want to discuss their situation with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney.

Keywords: Retained, surgical, sponges, permanent damage, irreparable damage, advancements, surgical costs, Physical scars, loss of intestines, Hospitals ignoring.

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