Sponges Left in Patient Lead to Surgeon Sanction

A surgeon who inadvertently left two surgical sponges in a patient during bariatric surgery has been sanctioned by the Florida Department of Health. The surgery took place at North Florida Regional Medical Center. Gainesville surgeon Dr. Bruce Brient has been fined $15,000 and ordered to deliver a lecture on retained objects (leaving surgical items such as a sponge in a patient).
According to the Gainesville Sun, “One of the sponges was discovered the day after a 56-year-old female patient had a hernia repaired and a gastric band placed around the top portion of her stomach to treat obesity. She had to be opened up again, according to state documents. Thirty-six days later, the patient came to Brient complaining of nausea and vomiting. Brient ordered a second set of x-rays and discovered the second sponge. Another operation removed that sponge.”
While retained object medical errors are not common occurrences, they can cause serious medical complications. Such errors are also expensive to correct since they more often than not require additional surgery.
The Sun concludes, “In 2008, Medicare, which often takes the lead in shaping insurers’ policies, stopped reimbursing hospitals for care needed because of medical errors. And in April of this year, Medicare started making retained foreign objects, along with other hospital-acquired conditions such as pressure sores and infections, part of its routine reporting, available at healthcare.gov/compare.
Retained foreign objects are a relatively rare event, according to a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
That study of cases between 1990 and 2000 found that objects were retained at a rate that varied between one in 8,801 operations to one in 18,760 inpatient operations at the nonspecialty acute care hospitals.”