How dangerous are foreign objects left in the body after surgery?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Surgical “never events” are medical errors that are too unthinkable that they should have never happened. An example is when a surgeon leaves foreign objects inside a patient’s body after the procedure.

Although such errors are preventable, a study shows that a U.S. surgeon accidentally leaves a sponge or a towel on patients 39 times a week. Other items frequently left inside bodies after surgery include clamps, scalpels, cotton swabs, needles and gauze pads.

When these tools or instruments remain undetected for years, they can result in adverse consequences. 

Retained surgical bodies can be life-threatening

The impact of retained surgical bodies varies depending on the item and which part of the body the surgeon leaves them. Potential complications include:

  • Sepsis
  • Inflammation
  • Organ damage
  • Perforation or laceration
  • Severe infection that can cause pain, stiffness and discomfort

When left untreated, these complications can be fatal. Removing the foreign object often requires further surgery, which can cause more complications and a longer recovery period. It can also be emotionally and financially stressful to patients who have just endured an operation.

Retained surgical bodies can constitute medical malpractice

Missouri law considers negligently retaining foreign objects inside a body to be medical malpractice. However, filing a claim on time and establishing a direct link between a medical professional’s actions and the resulting injury, illness or death can be complex. A legal team can help victims or families of deceased loved ones through their options during this challenging time.


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