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How often are surgical sponges left inside patients?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2018 | Medical Malpractice |

When doctors perform surgery, the goal is to fix or repair organs. Occasionally, a transplant is necessary, and surgeons take great care to ensure no unhealthy foreign substances go into the body. However, it is actually quite common for surgeons to leave behind medical tools, particularly surgical sponges, inside patients’ bodies. 

One Illinois man discovered this firsthand. He received surgery in 2014, and it was not until much later that he discovered the doctor had left behind a sponge. The man began experiencing symptoms similar to having a fever, such as shortness of breath. There are many other stories similar to this one. It is rare, but it is important to be aware of the dangers so you can take prompt action should it ever happen to you. You should also pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

How often does this occur?

A report from The Washington Post found that surgeons leave behind foreign objects in patients in one out of every 5,500 to 7,000 surgeries. That may not seem like a lot, but it is vital to bear in mind that millions of surgeries occur across the United States every year. Although sponges are a common object to leave behind, there have also been stories of doctors leaving behind towels, gauze, scissors, cotton swabs, clamps and pins. It happens, so it is vital for patients to be aware if anything feels off after surgery. 

What are the symptoms?

After most surgeries, it is normal to experience some pain and discomfort. However, this pain should subside after a few days or weeks, depending on the surgery performed. If you continue to feel pain months after the surgery, you need to go back to receive an examination. You may also notice signs of an infection around the surgical site, which include swelling, discoloration and pus. Extreme headaches and swollen lymph nodes also tend to come up.