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The risk of foreign items left behind is higher in some surgeries

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2024 | Surgical Errors |

Certain surgical mistakes are so blatant that people might think of them as issues that no longer affect modern medical care. Between specialized training and strict standards maintained by corporate medical employers, there is a lot of pressure on medical professionals to consistently conform to best practices.

The idea that a surgeon would leave a foreign object behind in someone’s body, for example, probably seems like a very egregious oversight. Most medical professionals classify leaving objects behind in a patient or retained foreign bodies as a never event. It is a medical mistake that should never occur if surgeons follow proper procedures.

Despite that stance, about 1,500 patients every year in the United States come out of anesthesia with something in their body that should not be there. One type of surgery, in particular, has an elevated risk of surgeons leaving items behind.

Bigger cavities mean more risk

Technically, surgeons could leave something in a patient after operating to address carpal tunnel syndrome or replace a damaged knee joint. However, the highest reported incident of retained foreign bodies occurs after surgeries on the torso or abdomen.

Larger cavities accessed during the surgery produce more opportunities for surgeons and support staff to overlook or misplace items during the procedure. Someone undergoing an appendectomy therefore has a higher risk of a retained foreign body than someone having a lower extremity amputation performed because of diabetic neuropathy.

Patients who are familiar with the unique risks associated with the treatment they require may have an easier time investigating the medical practices of a facility and protecting themselves from egregious oversights and obvious negligence. Additionally, learning more about trends in medical malpractice may help people advocate for themselves before something goes wrong or after a substandard surgical outcome.