South Carolina residents may be concerned to hear that in one out of every 5,500 surgeries, patients leave the operating room with a "foreign object" still inside of them, according to widely cited figures from a multi-institutional study. The Joint Commission, which qualifies a large number of hospitals nationwide for Medicare, recently issued an alert for this widespread issue, termed the "unintended retention of foreign objects."
The results of leaving these items in individuals can be fatal. Even in cases where the patient does not die, it can lead to new medical conditions as well as extended hospital stays on account of widespread infection and other devastating complications.
One of the items most commonly left by medical staff in patients during a surgical procedure is the surgical sponge. Unlike regular kitchen sponges, these small cotton squares are easy to miss if they are soaking up blood inside of a patient, and dozens or even hundreds can be used during a surgery. What many patient advocates find so frustrating is that leaving these items in patients can be easily avoided at a very low cost: The solution to this problem only adds between $2 and $10 to the cost of a procedure, but only 15 percent of hospitals use it, according to a USA Today report.
The solution involves tagging each surgical sponge with a radiofrequency system that beeps when a wand is waved over a patient. If any sponges are left behind, medical personnel will be made aware of the problem before the person is stitched up.
Patients should not have to worry that their medical condition will be worsened or that they will develop complications as a result of medical malpractice. Negligent practitioners may be held accountable through a claim filed by an injured patient with the help of an attorney.
Source: Forbes, "The nauseating mistake hospitals make and the $10 fix they scrimp on ", Leah Binder, October 24, 2013