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Surgical tools left in body the #1 cause of patient complications

Doctors in Providence go to school for many years to learn their craft, and then spend many more years honing their skills before they’re permitted to treat patients. Along the same lines, hospitals are required to meet rigorous standards in order to be allowed to offer services to the public. Patients trust that those standards are in place to ensure that they are receiving the highest level of care possible. Usually they are, as a majority of patient outcomes are favorable or at least acceptable. And even though doctors and other healthcare providers aren’t infallible and will occasionally make mistakes, random surgical errors might even be looked at by many with a certain degree of allowance. Yet one thing patients should never be asked to accept from healthcare providers is blatant carelessness.

The Joint Commission is a federal accrediting agency that certifies hospitals for Medicare. According to their research, the #1 cause of sentinel events, or unexpected complications that result in a patient’s death or serious injury, is “Unintended Retention of Foreign Objects.” In everyday terms, that’s items such as sponges, skin retractors, or even scalpels left in a patient’s body cavity after surgery. Their numbers estimate that surgical items are left inside a patient in 1 out of every 5,500 surgeries. While that’s less than a 1% frequency of occurrence, one may think that this should never happen, given that hospitals have protocols in place to check every tool and supply used before and after surgery. Yet the Joint Commission has shown that these pre-and post-op checks can have a 10%-15% error rate.

One should reasonably be able to expect that everything going into his or her body during surgery should also be coming out, especially given the fact that even something as simple as a small surgical sponge can cause a great deal of harm if left in a body. Providers who make this error should be held responsible for it. Those suffering from injuries resulting from surgeon mistakes may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer to assist them in earning compensation from the provider. 

Source: Forbes “The Nauseating Mistake Hospitals Make And The $10 Fix They Scrimp On” Leah Binder, Oct. 24, 2013

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Providence Personal Injury Office

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Providence, RI 02903

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