Victims of retained surgical objects are generally eligible to recover compensation for their injuries in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A recent study from the American College of Surgeons highlighted the problem of retained surgical objects in hospitals across the nation. Also known as left-behind items, retained surgical objects occur when a surgical item is left in the patient after the surgical site has been closed.
According to the study's findings, this egregious type of surgical error occurs more often than you may think. The study found that left-behind surgical items occur up to 7,000 times each year. The study also indicated that an average American hospital sees this type of error at least twice each year.
The study also identified the type of surgical item that is left behind the most often-the surgical sponge. This item, measuring as little as two inches across, is used to soak up blood and other bodily fluids during surgical procedures. Since sponges are regularly used in tight spaces and become colored with blood during use, they can be hard to locate once the procedure is finished. Researchers also noted that left-behind sponges are more likely to happen during surgery in the thoracic cavity, or involving the pelvis or vagina. Once left behind, surgical sponges can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria, which can develop into serious infections. In some cases, this can result in death.
To combat the problem, the study's researchers called on every hospital to adopt certain technological solutions. Specifically, the researchers recommended radio radiofrequency technology (RF). RF can be used to reduce the risk of left-behind sponges by inserting a small chip in each sponge used in a procedure. Once the procedure is finished, a technician can waive a wand over the patient's body to locate any missing sponges. According to the study, RF technology reduces the risk of left-behind items by 93 percent. This is significantly more effective than instrument counts or x-rays, which are prone to human error.
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Although RF technology is effective, it is also expensive. Because of this, many hospitals have opted not to use it. However, according to the study, RF technology would easily pay for itself. Researchers noted that left-behind items require patients to be readmitted to the hospital in 30 to 59 percent of cases, the high cost of which could largely be avoided by using RF.
Under New York law, you may be able to recover compensation for your pain and suffering and additional medical treatments, if you have been injured by a surgical error. If you are in this circumstance, it is important to immediately consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, as New York law requires you file a claim within 2.5 years in most cases. An attorney can investigate the facts surrounding your injury, determine whether surgical negligence played a role and work to obtain the best possible outcome for you.