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Surgical Negligence and Things Left Inside Patients

There have been over 120 cases in the UK over the past year where medical instruments, swabs and other ‘stuff’ has been left inside patients after hospital surgery.

These have often led to complications and further surgery for the patients involved. Sometimes objects left inside patients cause serious health problems that can even result in death. It is rare for death to occur from retained foreign objects, but it is still negligent for surgeons and hospital staff to have left an object inside a patient after a surgical procedure.

Recent surgical negligence cases of retained foreign objects include a 54 year old woman from Bradford who died last year when a pen-like instrument was left inside her after gall bladder surgery. The object pierced her stomach twice which led to multi-organ failure and ultimately her death.

Also in the news was a nurse that underwent a hysterectomy in 2005 who fell violently ill four years later. Doctors discovered that a surgical sponge had been left inside her and had actually become attached to her abdominal cavity.

Other incidences involving instruments left behind by medical staff include a 13-inch metal tool in the abdomen of a man discovered after he set off a metal detector, a six-inch metal surgical clamp found inside a 59-year-old man complaining of nausea, and a 13-inch retractor left inside a cancer patient.

Sadly most of these incidents occur due to human error, usually due to a lack of policies and procedure. Our Clinical Negligence Solicitors find that many Surgical Negligence Claims result from errors in NHS hospital operating rooms, labour and delivery rooms, ambulatory surgery centres and in private medical clinics and labs where invasive procedures such as catheters, colonoscopies and cosmetic surgery procedures take place.

In order to improve the system and reduce the number of medical mistakes, some NHS hospitals require four counts of sponges and medical instruments. The first count happens when the instruments are being set up and the sponges unwrapped. The next count is required right before surgery begins, another count as closure begins, and finally a count during skin closure. This is a general guideline and there are different count methods according to different hospitals.

While careful counting could prevent some mistakes, counting carries its own risks. Sometimes the patient must be worked on immediately, leaving no time to count the instruments to be used beforehand. Another risk of counting after surgery is having to leave the patient under anaesthesia longer. In addition, counting may not be entirely beneficial as it is prone to human error and the majority of the cases of retained tools happen under a reported correct count.

If you or a member of your family has suffered as a result of surgical negligence Slater and Gordon Lawyers can help starting with a free consultation. Call our Clinical Negligence Solicitors 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online. Our UK contact centre is open 24 hours 365 days a year.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have 1,450 staff and offices in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Sheffield, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Merseyside, Cambridge, Derby and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.