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Medical errors result in surgical tools left in patients' bodies

Many Americans pay significantly for surgeries to improve and even save their lives. However, not all operations are over when the patient leaves the operating room. Surgical tools are all too often left in the body and they can endanger a patient's life.

According to staggering data from 2005 to 2012, some 16 deaths resulted from 772 incidents of surgical objects being left in patients. In 95 percent of those incidents, the patient's hospital stay was prolonged. The common sites for instruments being left behind are labor and delivery rooms, operating rooms and ambulatory surgery centers or labs. The likelihood that a surgical tool is left in the patient's body is nine times higher in emergency procedures and four times higher when a procedure is changed on short notice.

Surgical errors can be costly for the patient and for the hospital involved. For example, after falling seriously ill in 2005, a female patient discovered that a surgical sponge was left in her abdomen from an operation performed four years prior. The sponge had adhered to the patient's bladder and other areas in her stomach and abdominal walls and cavity, resulting in severe health issues, disability and emotional distress. The patient filed a lawsuit against the hospital, but the defendant has appealed the amount of damages she is seeking.

In Laurel, Maryland, or anywhere, a medical error like this can happen for several reasons. The hospital may lack appropriate policies and procedures, or the staff is not following them. In either case, the patient's health and life are at risk. Errors caused by medical negligence can result in a worsened medical condition and even death.

Victims of such negligence may file a lawsuit against the hospital or its medical staff for compensation for medical bills and other expenses.

Source: CBS News, "Nearly 800 Surgical Tools Left in Patients Since 2005: Report," Ryan Jaslow, Oct. 18, 2013

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