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Objects Left in the Body After Surgery

July 11, 2013

Objects Left in the Body After Surgery

Ten weeks after the patient, a 56-year-old mother of three, underwent surgery for cancer, doctors discovered that a surgical sponge had been left in her abdomen. The discovery was the beginning of a yearlong hospital stay. The resultant infections and complications prevented her from receiving follow-up chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She eventually succumbed to the the cancer that the surgery had been intended to prevent.

She was one of a small but disturbing number of patients who die each year from infections, complications and other causes related to foreign objects left behind after surgery. Objects, often sponges, that are left behind during surgery can remain in a patient’s body for years without detection, adhering to organs and leading to pain, infection and other problems.

These injuries and deaths are avoidable, and could be prevented if all hospitals were to enact systematic safety protocol measures to address them. Some hospitals, but not all hospitals, are working to take such steps.

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