It’s called a “Never Event” because it is something that should never happen according to the National Quality Forum and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Yet each year, as many as 1,500 foreign objects are left inside patients during a surgery, including sponges, gauzes, towels, clamps, and surgical tools. This can result in emergency surgery to remove the foreign object and can cause life-threatening conditions, including severe infections and adhesions.
According to a Washington State Nurses’ Association report, the retention of foreign objects inside of a patient is more likely if:
- The surgery is performed emergently
- The surgery involved operating on the abdominal cavity
- The procedure changed unexpectedly, or
- The patient is overweight.
Surgical teams have a responsibility to ensure that all surgical tools, sponges, towels, and equipment are accounted for prior to closing the patient and completing the procedure. Hospitals traditionally require that members of a surgical team, usually a nurse, count – and then recount, multiple times – every sponge and surgical tool used in a procedure. But in the case of sponges (which account for two-thirds of all retained items), studies have shown that in four out of five cases in which sponges are left behind, the operating team had declared all sponges accounted for.
In recent years, new tracking technology has made it easier to remedy the problem, such as radio-frequency detectable sponges. However, for one reason or another, hospitals have resisted employing such new technologies.
Failure to detect an object inside of a patient can have devastating consequences for the patient and his or her family. Surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists have a duty to ensure that all procedures and surgeries are performed consistent with accepted standards of care. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a “never event” or other surgical mistake, you have a right to seek compensation.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Sommers Schwartz can fight for your rights and ensure that the negligent surgeon is held accountable for his or her errors. Please contact us today – the law gives you only a limited amount of time to act.