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Hospitals Accidently Leave Foreign Objects Inside Patients After Surgery

A patient safety analysis conducted by the Niagara Health Quality Coalition for Hearst Newspapers found 84 instances of foreign objects being left inside the body after surgery at New York hospitals in 2009. Forgotten items typically included sponges, clamps, drill bits, wires, needles, scissors, screws and more.

In one case, a man had a metal instrument inside his body for five months until it was detected and surgically removed. In another case, a surgical lap pad was left inside a women’s body after abdominal surgery. Hospital staff noticed it during an X-ray after the patient vomited, and it was surgically removed two days later.

The NHQC placed 26 hospitals on its Watch List at the conclusion of the analysis, which included a number of other factors aside from foreign objects left inside the body.

While the NHQC should be commended for its investigation, and for bringing this information to light, clearly one instance of a foreign object having been left inside of a patient is too many. There is no question that medicine is not an exact science, and generally physicians and hospitals take all necessary safety precautions in their treatment of patients. The report seems to suggest, however, that instances involving foreign objects occur for the most part as a result of lack of attention to detail. Such avoidable injuries should not go unreported, and accountability for those facilities who permit objects to be retained in patients will only help to ensure that the numbers continue to decline.

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