Decades Of Experience In Personal Injury Law

Why surgeons often seem to leave equipment inside the body

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Surgeons sometimes leave surgical equipment inside the body. This happens so often that these items have a term: retained surgical items.

When surgeons do this, the risks to patients can be high and complications may be severe.

Legal and ethical ramifications

From a medical standpoint, leaving equipment inside a patient constitutes a breach of the standard of care. It can be a form of medical malpractice due to the preventable harm it causes. Surgeons and health care facilities have a duty to implement robust protocols for preventing RSIs, including instrument counting procedures and technologies such as radio frequency identification tagging of surgical items.

Consequences of retained surgical items

Leaving surgical equipment inside a patient’s body can result in serious consequences. Retained items may cause infection, tissue damage, organ perforation or obstruction of the digestive or urinary tract. Patients may experience pain, discomfort and complications that necessitate further surgeries to remove the foreign object. In severe cases, RSIs can even lead to life-threatening conditions.

Complex surgical environments

Operating rooms are dynamic environments where surgical teams work under pressure to perform intricate procedures swiftly and accurately. Amid the intensity of surgery, team members may overlook surgical instruments, sponges or other items.

Human error and distractions

Fatigue, distractions and communication breakdowns within the surgical team can contribute to lapses in attention, leading to equipment left behind. Additionally, emergencies or unexpected complications during surgery may divert attention from proper instrument counting procedures.

Surgeons and health care institutions must prioritize patient safety above all else to mitigate the risk of RSIs and uphold the highest standards of care in surgical practice.