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Are retained surgical sponges a real problem?

Surgeons use a host of equipment and supplies when they are doing a surgical procedure. It is crucial that they remove all of these tools and supplies from the patient before they close the incision when the surgery is done. Items that are left behind in the patient pose a serious medical risk for the patient. In some cases, these items, such as surgical sponges, can lead to infections as the body tries to fight off the foreign body.

What happens if a surgical sponge is left in a patient?

If a surgical sponge is left in a patient, the patient will usually require a second surgery to remove the sponge. This means more time that the patient must spend under the watchful eye of medical professionals. It also means more pain and time off of work.

How can left behind surgical sponges be prevented?

Surgical sponges that are used in a surgery should be counted. Instead of items that are introduced into the surgical field without much consideration, each sponge should be carefully noted and handled. One way to prevent retained sponges is to ensure that these sponges are properly counted using double checked methods, such as counts placed on a dry erase board or having more than one person account for the specific number of sponges that was used in the procedure.

If you had a surgical sponge retained in your body after a surgery, you might choose to seek compensation for the medical effects of the sponge. This can include compensation for the removal surgery, treatment for infection, lost wages and other damages.

Source: No Thing Left Behind, "Soft Goods: Sponges and Towels," accessed June 22, 2016

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