In a Johns Hopkins malpractice study, researchers estimated that surgeons leave foreign objects such as surgical sponges and towels inside patients after surgery more than 2,000 times each year. This type of medical mistake is called a “never event” because it is both preventable and potentially life threatening in many cases. Retained surgical sponges are the most common type of surgical mistake.

In a report on the occurrence of adverse events occurring between 2005 and 2009, the Nevada State Health Division recorded between 100 and 200 events each year. Of these, 91 percent occurred in acute care hospitals and surgery centers. The symptoms of damage from a surgical sponge may not appear for months, or even years, and many researchers believe that this type of medical malpractice is much more common due to the vagueness of the symptoms and reluctance to report the incidents on the part of the hospitals.

Identifying and removing sponges is difficult

Some retained foreign objects are simple to diagnose because an x-ray easily identifies them, but this is not always the case with sponges because they are the most difficult to recognize. On imaging technology, a sponge often appears as a mass or tumor, leading to a further wrong diagnosis and treatment. Sponges range in size from small gauze pads to towels larger than a square foot.

The abdomen is the most common place for sponges to be left behind, and also one of the most dangerous. Infections, internal organ perforations and hemorrhaging are typical effects, and surgical removal is often complicated. For example, when a sponge is wrapped around the colon, it is often necessary to remove portions of the colon. After this procedure, a patient must wear a colostomy bag to collect waste from the abdomen because it can no longer pass naturally.

Manually monitoring tools is not always feasible

Miscount of surgical sponges is easy because there are hundreds of surgical instruments used in an operation. Sponges often blend in with surrounding tissue once they are saturated with blood. Particularly in a fast paced surgery typical in an emergency room, nurses have a hard time keeping track of them. Some hospitals have begun using bar codes on all surgical tools in order to locate and identify them before closing up a patient.

Victims of medical staff negligence may have extensive reparation expenses, significant recovery time and even permanent disabilities. A Nevada personal injury attorney can provide the legal expertise necessary for a patient to receive full compensation under the law.