4 complications associated with retained surgical sponges

Published on  Jan 17, 2015. Posted in Medical Malpractice

Americans who are going in for a surgical procedure may leave the operating room with more than they bargained for. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that surgeons leave foreign objects within patients’ surgical sites more than 4,000 times every year. More than two-thirds of all retained foreign objects are gauze-like sponges that surgeons use to control blood loss during surgery. These surgical sponges can cause a significant amount of internal damage and even death to unsuspecting patients, as any medical malpractice attorney Lake County knows. The most common complications associated with these preventable surgical errors include:

  1. Digestive damage and dysfunction

Sponges left behind from surgical errors may migrate into the lining of a patient’s stomach, causing gastrointestinal bleeding. The exact severity of damage that occurs will vary from one patient to another, depending on each person’s unique characteristics. Weight loss, fever, swelling of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting and urinary retention are all possible complications that may result from a retained foreign item.

  1. Infection and pain

Infection can occur when any type of foreign object is introduced into the body. In some cases, surgical sponges left behind in a surgical site can become attached to the outer portion of a patient’s internal organs. Over time, the inflammation and infection induced by the foreign object may cause an intestinal or bowel obstruction, according to the University of Houston Law Center. A medical malpractice attorney in Lake County often knows that excruciating abdominal pain may be the first indicator of a major problem. That pain usually draws the patient in for an examination but even then, it can take some time before the true source of the pain is discovered.

  1. Perforated colon

When left in the abdomen, sponges can wrap around the colon, creating a hole or perforation in the tissue. Hemorrhaging, or uncontrolled blood loss, can also occur.

This happened to a 43-year-old man who had undergone a surgical procedure to treat a digestive condition a year earlier. According to USA Today, the man noticed something was wrong when he started vomiting uncontrollably. After he lost an extreme amount of weight, the man was taken into the emergency room. A CT scan showed several retained surgical sponges that had grown into the man’s intestine over the past year, causing the intestinal tissue to tear apart. Surgeons had to remove and reconnect several parts of his intestine in order to repair the damage that had been done.

  1. Additional medical procedures

Once a retained surgical instrument is found, additional surgical procedures may be required to remove the item or abscess that was caused by the foreign object. When a surgeon performs more procedures, the patient is at an increased risk of further medical error and complications. Victims of surgical errors may find it helpful to talk about their situation with a medical malpractice attorney in Lake County.