Preventing Retained Foreign Bodies After Surgery
Since the beginning of surgical practice, instruments used by doctors have been inadvertently left in various body cavities after an operation is complete. It’s approximated that at least one case of a retained item post-operation occurs annually in all hospitals that perform 8,000-18,000 major surgeries per year. Even if doctors are able to catch these near-misses through X-Ray or incorrect counts of medical instruments, valuable resources and hospital personnel’s time is used to remedy the mistake. And you can always consult with a medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland, OH about your situation.
Patient safety is considered to be the highest priority by The American College of Surgeons (ACS). Everyone in the OR is required to take an oath to protect the patient by whatever means necessary under ethical, moral, and legal umbrellas. While the work environment in an operating room is very systematic, the surgical team also has to perform with added stress of time management on top of their already complex duties. Lack of time management can sometimes lead to mistakes. This has spurred ACS to work to eradicate the recurrence of retained foreign bodies in patients.
One of the main issues that can lead to complications, such as retained foreign bodies, is a lack of communication between the surgical staff. OR staff often come from different backgrounds including medical schools and varying levels of experience; this can mean that many people in the room have been trained in different styles of communication. Another contributing factor comes with the process of manually counting surgical tools such as scissors, clamps, sponges, etc. Materials should be counted before and after the procedure to guarantee they are all accounted for. Additionally, hospitals use radio-opaque markers to mark all materials being used in the OR that go inside the patient; this marker will show up on X-Ray machines for post-operation needs. Doctors need to have proper documentation of the medical supply counts and items intentionally left inside as packing. Hospitals need to regularly review their process to make sure it is as successful as it can be.
The most frequent item to be left inside patients is surgical sponges. Additionally, the most common areas for surgical tools to be lost are the chest, abdomen, and pelvis as they are larger body cavities. Doctors should use extra care when checking these areas before closing the wound. If after the surgery, there is a miscount of sponges, needles, etc., the wound must be reopened as soon as possible to retrieve the missing items.
Hospitals have rules and procedures implemented to guarantee the safest practices for patients undergoing operations. Surgical facilities are required to have all necessary equipment and resources, such as X-Ray machines and personnel, readily available at all times. These guidelines from ACS can be adapted for any medical practice setting that provides invasive procedures.
Thanks to Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co. for their insight into medical malpractice and foreign bodies after surgery.