How often do surgeons leave foreign objects inside patients?

Many medical mistakes are subtle and easy to overlook, which means they can be hard to prove that they ever happened. Other medical mistakes might have explanations that leave some doubt regarding what actually happened.

However, there are some medical mistakes that are so obvious that no one can question the cause or the potential impact that they have on the patient. A surgeon leaving a tool or other foreign object in the body of a patient is one such situation. There is typically no alternative explanation for items left behind in a patient’s body, nor is there any excuse for a medical professional to make such an egregious oversight in the care that they provide.

Although you may have seen television shows or movies that make jokes about a surgeon leaving an item behind in a patient, you probably assumed that such a situation would almost never happen in the real world. How frequently do surgeons leave foreign objects inside someone’s body after a surgery?

Analysis of medical records shows leaving foreign objects happens frequently

Leaving a surgical implement or another item inside a patient’s body when a closing up an incision can lead to injury if the object is hard or sharp. Even softer items, like gauze or sponges, can cause an infection. Such mistakes will typically require a second surgery to correct the issue and may also necessitate other medical interventions, depending on the impact the incident has had on the patient.

While some of these mistakes may go unnoticed or unreported, there is no question that patients across the country experience this exact nightmare situation every single day. On average, 12 surgeries in the United States result in foreign objects left behind in a patient every day.

That adds up to thousands of mistakes over the course of a year. While the patients who suffer these mistakes may only represent a tiny minority of the total people undergoing surgical procedures across the country, it is still shocking to know that such an obvious mistake happens on such a significant scale.

Surgeons should never make such an obvious mistake 

Both the surgeon and the nurses and other professionals aiding them should make every effort to hear some best practices before, during and after a surgery. Those best practices include checking all surgical supplies to verify that nothing got left behind in the patient.

Failing to perform these necessary checks can have disastrous outcomes for a patient’s health. If you or a loved one suffered a major surgical mistake, you may have grounds to bring a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon or possibly the facility involved in the procedure.