Surgical Instruments Left Inside Patients

Retained Sponges and Instruments

Retained sponges and instruments (RSI) is a medical term used to identify when a surgeon has negligently left an object in a patient’s body. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, this is considered a “medical ‘never event’ and [has] catastrophic implications for patients, healthcare professionals, and medical care providers.”

There are obvious dangers associated with this kind of medical malpractice. From perforated organs to serious infections, if you or someone you love has been injured due to a surgeon leaving a surgical instrument or sponge in the body, call (713) 932-0777 for a free case evaluation.

Other Names of RSI

tray of surgical toolsOver the years, there have been many terms used to describe leaving surgical material and objects in the body, including:

  • Retained Foreign Objects
  • Retained Surgical Instruments
  • Unintended retention of foreign objects

With the protocols set in place by hospitals and the standards required by surgeons, this kind of medical malpractice should never occur. In most cases, foreign objects are discovered soon after the patient has undergone surgery; however, this usually required additional surgery to correct which presents a new set of unnecessary complications the patient must be exposed to.

Why Retained Surgical Objects Should Never Happen

The accepted medical standard for hospitals is to have protocols in place requiring the count of all instruments and sponges before surgery begins and ends. If you wind up with fewer at the end, you know a mistake was made that needs to be corrected right then and there. Advances in medical technology have made identifying these materials easier. Most objects have a blue thread or tab that can be seen on an x-ray, making it easy to remove before the patient is closed up. So a simple post-op x-ray can confirm that no objects were left in the patient.

What Objects Are Most Frequently Left in Patients Post Surgery?

Medical sponges are the most common medical device that is inadvertently left inside patients. Scalpels, needles, and gauze are the next most frequent medical devices left behind. Sponges are commonly overlooked because when used to clot blood in patients, they resemble the bodily tissue they are surrounded by.

Softer medical objects like sponges and gauze, make patients more prone to infection. While sharp objects like scalpels and needles can perforate organs and have a more immediate effect on the body.

What Complications Are Associated with Retained Foreign Objects?

Complications one may experience due to a retained foreign object include:

  • Organ Blockage
  • Perforation
  • Serious Infection
  • Sepsis
  • Septic Shock

These conditions can be dangerous, even deadly if allowed to go untreated. If you suspect a surgical object may have been left inside you, you should go to the emergency room and get checked out immediately.

What Symptoms Are Associated with Retained Foreign Objects?

Depending on what object has been left, a patient can experience severe symptoms due to retained foreign object, including:

  • Abnormal discoloration around the incision site
  • Fever
  • Fluids or blood coming from the incision area
  • Nausea
  • Sudden pain or fatigue

If you are experiencing these symptoms following surgery, consult your medical provider immediately. Surgeries are complicated by nature, but your recovery process should not always be this way.

Free Medical Malpractice Consultations

If proper procedures are in place and protocol is followed, retained foreign objects simply should NEVER happen. If you or someone you love is dealing with complications associated with a retained surgical instrument, do not handle it alone. At Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., our attorneys have been serving injured victims in Texas since 1979. Don’t try to handle a medical malpractice claim by yourself, call (713) 932-0777 to learn more about your rights.



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