People who have surgery don’t expect that their health will worsen after the surgery. For patients who have items left behind in the surgical area might have significant health issues. Typically, items left behind require the patient to undergo another surgery to remove the items. As you can imagine, these patients suffer. The suffering is financial, physical and mental.

It is up to the medical professionals who are in the operating room to ensure that items aren’t left in the patient. In most cases, the patient is asleep and unable to try to keep track of things on his or her own. Plus, that responsibility shouldn’t fall on the patient anyway.

Making sure that items like needles, sponges, retractors and other items are accounted for at the end of the surgery is crucial. This takes a full team effort. Typically, surgical centers should have protocol to follow that helps them the keep track of these items. Something as simple as counting the number of each instrument available prior to surgery and added to the surgical field during the procedure and then accounting for them all after the surgery could considerably cut down on the number of retained surgical objects left in patients.

Surgeons and assistants should double check the surgical field prior to closing the wound to ensure that all items have been removed. If the patient does find out that something was left behind, seeking compensation might be possible. This won’t make the suffering any easier but it could help to reduce the financial burden placed on the family because of the patient’s need for unexpected medical care.

Source: Infection Control Today, “Preventing Retained Surgical Items is a Team Effort,” Kelly M. Pyrek, March 31, 2017