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Dangers and frequency of surgical equipment left inside a patient

When people in San Diego, across the state and country undergo a surgical procedure there is an immense amount of trust placed into the medical professionals overseeing it. A surgeon mistake can have long-term consequences and even end up being a fatal surgical error and result in death. While certain errors are almost understandable when placed into a certain context of simple human mistakes, one error that should never happen is surgical equipment left inside a patient. This might sound like a rare occurrence, but a study showed that from 2005 to 2012, almost 800 incidents occurred in which surgical equipment was left behind after a surgery was supposed to have been completed.

The study was done by The Joint Commission, a watchdog keeping an eye on health care safety. A number of complications can arise during surgery, but one that is never supposed to happen is a piece of equipment left in a patient. This can lead to damage to the patient, the need for surgery to remove the item and even death. From 2005 to 2012, 772 people were affected by this issue. Sixteen of those people died. Ninety-five percent of the time, the patient who was afflicted by this error needed to spend extra time in the hospital.

These surgeon errors are nine times as frequent when it was an emergency procedure. It is four times as frequent when the surgical procedure required an unexpected change. One incident in particular involved a patient who had a hysterectomy and became sick four years after the surgery when a surgical sponge was found on a CT scan as she sought treatment. People who need extended time in the hospital due to these surgical errors can face approximately $166,000 more in charges.

This mistake often happens due to an absence of procedures or failures to follow procedures to prevent it from happening. Such attempts at preventing this include counting equipment before and after the procedure and having more than one person in the operating room to do counts to make sure that they're in agreement.

If a medical mistake has occurred, those who were affected by it should discuss the matter with a legal professional experienced in pursuing a case with surgical errors. Regardless of why it happened, a medical professional leaving a piece of equipment inside a patient is an egregious mistake that can lead to severe damage.

Source:, "Nearly 800 surgical tools left in patients since 2005: Report," Ryan Jaslow, Oct. 18, 2013

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