Surgical Object Retention Far Too Common in US Hospitals

screws%20shot%203.jpgTo most Americans, it seems like a freak occurrence that is extremely uncommon. Unfortunately, it is anything but. It should be rare to have surgical objects, tools, and instruments left behind in a patient’s body during surgery, but new data released by The Joint Commission finds that it is not.

The Joint Commission says that there are far too many cases of surgical object retention, or objects being left behind in patient’s bodies in American hospitals. According to The Joint Commission, this is a surgical error that is highly preventable. It is also a well-known problem in the medical community, and is one that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible because of the huge potential for patient harm or death.

The Joint Commission says that there have been more than 770 reports of surgical objects and tools being left behind in patient’s bodies over the past seven years. In 16 of these cases, the patient died as a result of these errors. In almost 95% of the cases, the error resulted in the patient having to extend his hospital stay.

The most frequent objects that are involved in surgical object retention cases are stapler parts, parts of medical instruments, sponges, towels and needles. Some patients seem to be at a much higher risk of having objects left behind after surgery. These include overweight patients, and patients who are due for more than one surgical procedure. The risk also seems to increase with multiple surgical teams, a higher rate of staff turnover during a procedure, or during urgent or emergency procedures.

What is really alarming is that The Joint Commission also believes that the 770 surgical errors is possibly an inaccurate number. In fact, the Joint Commission believes that the number is probably closer to 1,500 to 2,000 such errors every year.

The unfortunate part is that these errors are preventable. Hospitals need to establish a reliable operating room counting system in which team members count all surgical tools and instruments that are used after the surgery. Having a count like this can help account for tools, medical products and implements that are missing. Effective counting procedures can be very effective in helping reduce the risk of such surgical errors.

Further, hospitals need to establish effective standardized policies that streamline wound opening and closing procedures. There should also be specific times for x-rays to be performed, in order to have a better chance of detecting any item left behind. A surgical team briefing that includes nurses and other personnel, as well as doctors involved in the procedure. These debriefings can provide feedback, encouraging nurses to speak up when there is the potential for an error.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent persons who have been injured as a result of medical negligence across Indiana.