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Do medical instruments get left behind?

Every year, thousands of Americans enter operating rooms in hospitals and outpatient clinics across the country. If you have gone into an operating room for a surgical procedure, you know how it feels to place your life in the hands of medical professionals. You may trust that they have the education and knowledge necessary to accurate perform your procedure and help you through the healing process. Surprisingly, surgeons and surgical staff make a number of errors in the operating room, pointing to gross medical negligence. This involves leaving foreign objects behind in patients’ surgical sites. These mistakes are often called ‘never-events’ because they should never happen if proper protocol and procedures are followed.

According to the medical journal Surgery, more than 80,000 never events occurred in U.S. hospitals within a 20-year period. John Hopkins University found that these acts of negligence occur 4,000 times every year. Approximately 39 times every week, surgeons and OR staff leave surgical instruments behind. The most common piece of equipment left behind are surgical sponges, which are used to soak up blood and fluids within the operating site. Once the sponges become saturated, they tend to blend into their surroundings.

In order to prevent them from being left behind, surgical staff is required to perform a count of all equipment to ensure everything is accounted for before the patient is stitched up. Although medical staff reports a full count of supplies, often times items get left behind. This can cause major infections and potentially lead to permanent damage or death.

This information is intended to education and should not be taken as legal advice.

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