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Patient files suit for foreign object left behind after surgery

Counting scalpels, sponges and other objects used during surgery is a common safety practice used to help protect New Jersey patients from being injured. A foreign object left behind in a patient can cause severe infections and other complications that can quickly arise. This can cause further distress and injury to a patient who is already recovering from surgery.

In 2013, a patient sought care for gastroesophageal reflux disease -- GERD -- and a hiatal hernia. While undergoing a procedure to treat both of these afflictions, attending surgeons halted the surgery. They apparently discovered significant bleeding from an artery and switched gears, instead opting to perform a laparotomy. During the abdominal exploration doctors were able to control the bleeding with surgical pads and sponges, making it possible to return to the original procedure.

After the surgeries had been completed, but before he was wheeled out of the operating room, surgeons performed a quick a radiographic procedure since no one had actually counted the number of sponges that were used. They failed to note any foreign objects. A short while later the patient was transferred to intensive care for respiratory failure. A secondary scan showed that the surgeons had indeed missed something, and additional surgery yielded two surgical pads that had been left close to his diaphragm.

A foreign object left behind in a patient is considered to be a completely preventable complication of surgery. Simply counting the number of objects that go into and come out of a patient is one of the most effective ways to prevent such tragedies from occurring in New Jersey hospitals. Since Medicare services typically will not cover costs related to foreign objects left behind due to the high level of preventability, most victims seek to recover related financial, physical and emotional damages by filing medical malpractice suits.

Source:, "2 Hillcrest patients claim medical malpractice against Baylor S&W", Tommy Witherspoon, March 5, 2016

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Alan D. Bell
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