When a Surgeon Fails to Remove Surgical Instruments from Your BodyMedical malpractice is a very broad term that can involve many types of medical errors, including negligent diagnosis, prescription medication errors, incompetent practice, intentional harm, and much more. But there is one type of medical malpractice that the average person rarely thinks of, retained foreign bodies, also referred to as retained sponges and instruments (RSI), when objects are accidentally left inside of a person’s body during surgery. Just about everyone has a heard a news item about an incident of RSI, but it’s usually treated as a bizarre freak accident that almost never happens. However, incidents of retained foreign bodies are much more common than most people realize.
Frequency and Causes Of Retained Foreign Body IncidentsAccording to studies conducted by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), incidents of RSI vary widely from year to year, occurring as frequently as 1 in 100 operations, and as infrequently as 1 in 1,500. Considering the number of surgical procedures that are performed in the U.S. each year, those numbers are quite high.
The most common retained foreign bodies are sponges, which isn’t surprising when one considers how many are used during a typical surgical procedure. However, scalpel blades, forceps, pins and needles, bandages, probes, and plastic tubing have been found too. The sheer number of instruments involved in surgery helps to explain why RSI happens, and stress, fatigue, and the often confusing and distracting environment of a modern operating room are additional causes. To prevent items from being misplaced, instruments and sponges are carefully counted both before and after a surgical procedure.
Injuries From RSIThe effects of RSI on the body vary widely depending on the patient and the part of the body where the object is located. Sometimes patients can go many years without showing any adverse symptoms at all. In the majority of cases, the presence of the foreign object is discovered soon after surgery using X-rays and other types of imaging technology.
Physical damage is caused by infection of the area around the object, by the foreign body scratching, lacerating, and irritating internal organs, and the formation of harmful tissue growth. And of course, once a foreign body is discovered, the patient must undergo a second surgery to remove it, putting the patient at unnecessary risk, as well as pain and discomfort, loss of income during recovery, and all the other potential damages from a second procedure.