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Surgical Supplies Left in Your Body


Could a routine surgery result in months—even years of misery, due to a retained foreign body being left inside your body? Although it sounds unthinkable, thousands of patients wind up back in emergency rooms due to sponges, forceps, clamps and other surgical instruments being left behind after an operation. If this scenario is one that you or a loved one experiences, it would be a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

Frequency of These Hospital Errors 

It is estimated that a typical hospital encounters two such incidents every year. Sometimes patients leave the hospital feeling good, only to experience symptoms of pain, vomiting and other digestive issues months later. Not realizing the previous surgery may be related to their new symptoms, they suffer through, thinking it will pass. Only when symptoms become unbearable do they find themselves back in the emergency room, where imaging technology reveals the astonishing truth about their problems: they are all related to medical supplies that were left inside their bodies during a surgical procedure.

One Florida Example 

One Florida man knows just how grave this issue can be. His Florida doctor initially treated his stomach problems with laxatives and antacids. But as the pain became more piercing and the pounds began to drop off, it became clear something serious was amiss. A CT scan revealed the problem: surgical sponges from a procedure done a year previously had been left behind, only to become fused to his intestines. Racked with infection, the man then endured multiple surgeries, a medically induced coma, and a finally, a colostomy bag.


The Journal of the American College of Surgeons reports that sponges and gauze are the most frequently left behind items, referred to as retained foreign bodies. Because they become blood-soaked, they can be difficult to spot, particularly in cavernous areas such as the abdomen, vagina, thoracic cavity, and pelvis. Nurses are tasked with counting sponges before and after surgeries, but this becomes a precarious method of accounting for sponges, particularly during emergency procedures when time is sparse. Despite medical protocols, checklists, and best intentions, errors sometimes still occur. 

Technological Safety Checks 

Radiofrequency detection systems and bar coding systems have been targeted as the most efficient way to record sponge usage, reducing manual counting errors by over 90 percent in one study. Even so, this technology is recommended only as a back-up to manual counting.

Financial Costs Associated With These Mistakes

How costly are these mistakes? The average cost to remove left-behind items is over $60,000, and some associated lawsuits fun up to $5 million. But dollars and cents are only one piece of the equation: the pain and suffering associated with these kinds of mistakes are incalculable. That is why you want the aggressive, experienced team at the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton on your side. We will be relentless in the pursuit for justice on your behalf. Contact our Daytona & Ormond Beach offices today for a confidential, no-cost consultation.