There are many legitimate reasons that patients fear the operating room. The risk of contracting a post-operative infection, the risk of reacting to anesthesia and the risk of a challenging diagnosis can be daunting. However, risks that patients should not be subjected to are those of leave-in surgical errors. Tragically, more than one dozen patients are subjected to leave-in surgical errors on a daily basis nationwide. When sponges, towels and other surgical tools are left inside patient bodies, the outcome can be catastrophic.
These retained surgical items can cause patients extreme pain and can inspire various complications requiring hospitalization including organ failure and death. As a result of their potentially lethal complications and because leaving a foreign object inside a patient rises to the level of unacceptable negligence, leave-in surgical errors have been deemed "never events."
Never events are grossly negligent and preventable instances that may cost patients their lives needlessly. It is almost incomprehensible that this kind of never event alone occurs more than a dozen times daily across the country. Most often, patients are left with surgical sponges inside their bodies, though metal instruments, gauze, towels and even parts of gloves are sometimes left in body cavities.
Patient checklists should always be employed in order to prevent leave-in surgical errors. Patients, please check with your surgeon to make sure that this safety procedure is in place before you go under. Failure upon your physician's part to ensure that no leave-in errors occur could cost you your wellbeing or your life.
Source: USA Today, "What surgeons leave behind costs some patients dearly," Peter Eisler, March 8, 2013