Often when you got into a hospital for surgery, you leave with less than you came with. Perhaps medics remove the troublesome appendix or a cancerous lump.
Occasionally you leave the hospital with more than you went in with. Maybe surgeons added a pacemaker or installed an organ transplanted from someone else. However, there may be an occasion where you leave with something extra that you did not request.
Surgeons sometimes leave objects inside patients
Each year around 4,500 to 6,000 patients get home to find that medics have left a foreign body inside them. Some are soft such as sponges. Others are hard and metallic such as the clamps or forceps used in surgery.
Having a foreign object inside your body can cause pain and discomfort. It can lead to a severe and life-threatening infection such as sepsis or even death. It depends on what the object is and where the medic left it.
You might notice straight away, or it could take time. It may take repeated visits to a doctor until someone thinks to give you an X-ray and spots the reasons for your discomfort. Once discovered, you might need additional surgery to remove the offending item.
How can staff prevent retained surgical item events from happening?
There are several simple ways to reduce the chance a patient leaves the hospital with an object inside:
- Limiting noise and distraction: Those in the surgery theater should switch phones off and keep music levels low.
- Counting items: Some companies produce items used during surgery with bar codes to track whether surgeons have removed everything used. Staff should always avoid leaving the counting to one person. Recounts are essential.
Medical staff cannot afford to make mistakes in surgery. Therefore, hospitals need systems in place to catch these human errors. Failing to do so is negligent.