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Golitko & Daly

Surgical Instruments Left Inside Patients
Can Result in Serious Injuries

Each year, there are hundreds of cases involving surgical instruments left inside patients, which can result in physical complications and emotional trauma. Victims of this form of medical malpractice may have to endure prolonged hospital stays, ongoing care, and additional procedures, impacting their overall quality of life. In the most severe cases, retained surgical items (RSI) can result in death. Our medical malpractice attorneys at Golitko & Daly, P.C. in Indianapolis, IN, fight on behalf of victims and their families to secure maximum compensation for the pain and suffering they have endured. To learn more about your legal options, contact our firm for a complimentary consultation.

How Instruments Are Left Behind

While surgery always carries some level of risk, whether associated with anesthesia or infection, leaving a surgical instrument in a patient is a preventable error. Often, this situation occurs because of:

  • Insufficient standard operating procedures
  • A failure to follow standard operating procedures
  • A breakdown in communication
  • A lack of training and education
  • Misinterpretation of x-rays

Depending upon the location of the instrument, the victim can suffer serious, and in some cases, life-threatening consequences. In addition, it may take days, weeks, or months for the victim to ultimately discover the source of a foreign object.

There are several types of foreign objects that may be left inside a patient after a surgical procedure, including sponges, needles, and various instruments.

Typical Surgical Items

The structure of the item left behind often dictates the severity of resulting damage. The most frequent items left behind after surgery include:

  • Sponges: This is the most common foreign object to be forgotten. Sponges are used in large part to absorb fluids during surgery. When left behind, they can cause extreme pain and infection. Compounding the problem, sponges are difficult to detect on x-rays, increasing the likelihood that if left behind, the problem can linger.
  • Needles: Needles are often miscounted, and can thus be left behind. These items are especially dangerous due to their sharp structure, and are capable of puncturing and tearing organs and tissue.
  • Instruments: Clamps, drains, retractors, scissors, and blades have also been forgotten after surgery, and can cause a variety of serious side effects depending upon their location and size.

Doctors are obligated to meet a certain standard of care, and when they breach that duty, they can be found negligent. RSI is a clear indicator of negligence, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

High Risk Scenarios

Select procedures tend to result in the presence of retained surgical items, including:

  • Emergency surgery: Maintaining an accurate count of all instruments can prove more challenging in a stressful, fast-paced environment.
  • Complications during surgery: Complications during surgery lend to confusion, thus increasing the probability that instruments will be unaccounted for.
  • Failure to follow procedures: Following standard operating procedures is critical in surgery. Doctors and nurses should count surgical instruments at the start and finish of each procedure. If there are items unaccounted for, manual exploration or radiography may be required.
  • Poor communication: Depending on the complexity and length of the surgery, it is possible that technicians and nurses will be replaced during a shift change. It is vital that new staff members receive detailed information and instructions when they assume their roles.

In order to establish liability, our team must prove negligence. To do so, we must demonstrate that the medical practitioner did not meet their duty to provide an adequate standard of care, and that this breach of duty directly contributed to your injury.

Our attorneys understand how traumatic these scenarios can be, and can handle your case with the utmost care and consideration

To ensure you receive maximum compensation, we can fight tirelessly on your behalf, presenting all relevant medical records, documentation, and bills.

Potential Complications

Retained surgical items can cause a variety of complications, including:

  • Deteriorating health: Undue pain, bowel perforation, internal bleeding, infection, and abscesses can result from a failure to remove all instruments.
  • Additional procedures: If a retained surgical instrument is found after surgery, an additional surgical procedure may be necessary to remove it.
  • Death: Infections caused by retained surgical items can be fatal if not addressed in a timely manner.

In addition to the physical discomfort associated with these medical errors, many patients experience severe emotional trauma, impacting their and their family's quality of life. While a lawsuit cannot reverse the outcome of a surgical procedure, it can help to relieve the financial burden of medical expenses, lost income, and rehabilitation.  

Pursue Your Case

Our attorneys at Golitko & Daly, P.C. understand how traumatic these scenarios can be, and can handle your case with the utmost care and consideration. With proven success, we can use our extensive resources to strengthen your claim and fight for justice for you and your family. To schedule a complimentary case evaluation, contact us online or call (800) 520-1644 today.

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