Ohio Patients at Risk of Malpractice & Retained Surgical Instruments


Surgical procedures for patients have certain risks, such as risks from anesthesia and hospital-born infections. Some patients also face complications from poorly executed procedures.

In rare cases, surgeons and nurses may forget to remove a sponge, needle or other surgical instruments before closing an incision. In fact, thousands of patients a year leave operating rooms with surgical items lodged in their bodies.

The majority of cases of retained surgical instruments involve gauze and cotton sponges used throughout operations to soak up blood and other fluids. Instruments used to properly perform the surgery are supposed to be counted by a surgical team so that the mistake of a retained foreign instrument does not occur. If a sponge, needle or blade is retained, an injury is likely to follow. Other surgical items that may be retained patients are:

  • Towels
  • Needles
  • Knife blades
  • Scalpels
  • Clamps
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Forceps
  • Suction tips and tubes
  • Scopes
  • Surgical Staplers

The John Hopkins Institute found that surgical items are left inside of patients around 39 times a week in the U.S. These preventable medical mistakes are sometimes referred to as “never events” because they are so serious that medical professionals agree they should never occur. Unfortunately, these medical mistakes do occur and can cause severe health complications.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati hospital negligence attorney and Ohio medical malpractice lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of civil litigation claims. 


Retained Sponges & Surgical Instruments


Because medical sponges are designed to soak up fluid, they often blend in with the operating anatomy of a patient and hidden within the body cavity. If proper procedures are not followed, they can be forgotten by a medical team.

Patients who suffer from retained sponges are hit with life-threatening infections and must seek medical attention. A corrective surgery will be necessary and in serious cases may mean removing sections of intestine or colon and can lead to disabling conditions.

These events can be prevented by following proper medical protocol, such as the use of bar-coded or radio frequency-tagged surgical instruments. This ensures that after a surgery, all items can be accounted for without resorting to a simple counting which can be susceptible to human error. But not every hospital and surgical center has adopted available technologies that help eliminate the risk of leaving sponges in patients.

There is no standardized procedure for accounting for medical items from hospital to hospital. A review of government data and legal records suggests that far more people may be victims of lost surgical objects than prior estimates report. There’s no federal reporting requirement when hospitals leave sponges or other items in patients. Sponges account for more than two-thirds of all incidents.


Retained Surgical Instruments & Complications


Typically patients with a retained sponge must undergo a second surgical procedure and are faced with common operational risks. Retained sponges may sit in a patient’s body for months before being discovered.

When this occurs, potential health risks include developing a serious infection. Sponges, clamps and other items are attacked by the body’s immune system. When the foreign body retained is a scalpel, clamp or other sharp object, patients can face potential lacerations of vital organs.


Retained Surgical Instrument Injuries


When any patient is admitted to hospital for a surgical procedure, there is a reasonable expectation that the attending surgeon and team of medical professionals will do their best to perform a successful operation. The thought of professionals accounting for all instruments and sponges after the procedure should not cross your mind. This kind of gross negligence or malpractice is basis for a legal claim.

A surgeon is responsible to ensure that all objects are accounted for, and a failure to do so is a failure of duty. Patients who suffer an infection or a laceration caused by a retained foreign body are clear injuries. Medical malpractice cases can be very difficult to win, however a retained sponge or instrument is clearly a breach of duty by the surgeon or nurse and settlement compensation is very likely.

surgical staple injury

If you or a loved one has been injured after a surgical retained sponge or medical instrument, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer critical questions regarding retained surgical instruments.