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Patients may not notice potentially fatal retained sponges

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An operation always has a measure of risk involved. This risk includes complications during the procedure and the possibility of surgical errors, which puts patients’ lives in danger. In Chicago and throughout the United States, medical malpractice causes numerous hardships for patients who are impacted.

During a typical procedure, dozens of surgical sponges are placed inside of a patient’s body to soak up fluids. Upon conclusion of the operation, they resemble surrounding tissue, which creates a challenge for surgical staff who depend on manual counting methods to remove all of the sponges. Because these methods are prone to human error, many medical malpractice cases involve retained surgical sponge mistakes.

Identifying the error

According to an article in USA Today, medical errors involving surgical sponge retention often take place over a dozen times per day throughout the country. These errors are referred to as never-events because they are simply not supposed to happen. Government statistics do not reveal the accurate prevalence of retained sponges, but it is believed that they affect thousands of people each year. When doctors leave these sponges in patients, the patients could remain unaware of their presence for months, or even years.

After leaving an Alabama hospital in 2010, one woman suffered from complications following a cesarean section. Her stomach grew over the next several weeks and her bowels stopped functioning altogether. Her doctor told her to go to the emergency room right away.

The consequences of retained sponges

X-rays revealed that the woman had a large surgical sponge in her abdomen, prompting an emergency surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. For this woman, her symptoms appeared relatively quickly but this is not always the case. People who struggle with retained sponges (whether they are aware of it or not) may experience a variety of health problems, such as:

  • A considerable amount of pain
  • Disruptions to their digestive system
  • Infections
  • Fever
  • The need for additional surgery
  • Psychological and emotional problems

Some patients are unable to survive the serious setbacks that retained sponges cause while others may struggle with these setbacks for the rest of their lives. One man in Florida will always have to wear a waste pouch due to an infection caused by retained surgical sponges and the removal of part of his intestine.

Other complications can also arise from retained surgical sponge errors, especially financial difficulties. Hospitalizations for retained sponges typically cost over $60,000, according to Medicare and this can be a large burden for victims and their families to bear. If someone is pursuing medical malpractice damages, they should thoroughly evaluate the details of their situation with an experienced attorney.