Thousands of Foreign Bodies Left in Patients

by Staff | March 12th, 2013

Thousands of sponges, cotton clothes and gauze are left in patients after they are sewn up and sent home from our nation’s hospitals according to a USA Today study.  These items are used during surgery to soak up blood or other fluids, and should never be left behind in a patient.  The medical profession knows quite well the complications from leaving a foreign body in a patient can be huge.  Many patients complain for months, if not years, of intense pain and dysfunction, only to find out that they have a massive infection caused by a foreign body left behind after surgery.

The federal government does not require hospitals to report the number of incidents where foreign bodies, including metal equipment like clamps or forceps, are left in the patient. Government data and research studies, however, suggest it happens to 4,500 to 6,000 patients annually.  Medicare estimates that the cost for the removal and subsequent treatment for a foreign body is over $60,000.00 per patient.  Medicare typically denies payment for this care, leaving the patient to fight over the bill with the medical provider, who often is the same provider that left behind the foreign body in the first place.

The National Quality Forum report authored ten years ago ranked surgical foreign bodies as the most serious of medical errors.  Current data indicates that no real progress has been made in reducing this avoidable medical mistake.  The medical industry has failed to embrace available technologies that reduce the risk and the overall cost of these mistakes, according to Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public health professor in Boston.  Ohio law limits the time in which a patient can bring an action against the medical provider for leaving a foreign object in a patient.  Call NPHM to determine whether you have a case.

Authored by: Personal Injury and Trial Attorney Ellen McCarthy