A Pennsylvania jury has awarded a woman $525,000 for negligently leaving a laparotomy sponge in her after a 2004 surgery. The surgical sponge was not discovered for two months and by that time the foreign object had caused abdominal pains, a severe infection, bowel perforation, bowel obstruction and digestive problems.
Unfortunately, medical malpractices cases such as leaving foreign objects in a surgical patient’s body cavity is not uncommon. The resulting damage caused by such negligence can cause significant medical complications including further surgery to remove the foreign object. Safety protocols, when used properly, can reduce these medical errors. Such surgical safety protocols include sponge counts, tracking bar codes and radiographic screening after operations.
In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that there are 1,500 cases annually in which a sponge was inadvertently left in the body after surgery. Of these, 88% were determined to be the result of an inaccurate sponge count.
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