Many patients expect that they will recover quickly in the days and weeks after a procedure. If patients have retained surgical items, though, the recovery process may be more difficult.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, doctors leave surgical items behind in about 1,500 procedures each year. Although hospitals put measures in place to prevent these incidents, they may still occur during particularly complicated surgeries. This may be the case especially if surgeons need to use several different tools.
How do patients know if they have retained a surgical item?
Pain after a procedure can often be a sign that the surgical team left a tool inside a patient. People may also experience infections and nurses may notice masses around the surgical area. Medical staff may perform different tests to determine whether a retained item is the source of these problems. If this is the case, they then perform another operation to remove the tool.
Sometimes, patients may not feel symptoms of a retained item immediately after the procedure. Surgical sponges, for example, may remain inside people for several weeks or months before they begin to experience symptoms.
What kind of items do surgeons leave behind?
The surgical team may leave several different kinds of tools behind after the procedure. According to the American College of Surgeons, doctors may leave guide wires and surgical sponges inside a patient. Retained items also may include blades, needles, drains and catheters.
A retained item can be hazardous for a patient’s health. Patients may need to spend more time in the hospital as they recover from another procedure. Additionally, they may experience internal wounds before surgeons remove the item. In some cases, people may die from these injuries. Depending on the situation, patients who experience trouble with retained surgical items may have grounds to seek compensation for any resulting harm.