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Commission Urges Diligence and Protocols to Reduce Surgery-Related Malpractice

SurgeryIt may leave a patient shaking their head in disbelief but waking up from a surgical procedure with a souvenir left in their body is more common than one may believe. According to The Joint Commission, an independent, non-profit watchdog organization responsible for accreditation and certification of hospitals and healthcare facilities nationwide, reviewed over 770 cases of retained foreign surgical objects and found that sponges, towels, splintered and intact surgical instruments, staples and needles led to 16 deaths and 95 percent of the patients requiring extended hospital stays.

Dr. Ana McKee, the commission’s executive vice president and chief medical officer admits that these cases are all-too-common and urges the healthcare industry to find better solutions to avoid such occurrences. Although 770 cases have been reported, McKee believes that these types of surgical mistakes may range as high as 2,000 instances per year costing the medical industry nearly $200,000 in medical malpractice liability payments per case.

With the advancement of medical care, one may wonder why and how these cases exist in modern medicine. McKee states that certain patients or types of procedures are more prone to this type of medical error than others. Obese patients, rushed or emergency procedures, or those patients requiring multiple surgical teams are often the leading causes.

Supported by commission research and data, McKee also believes that issues with surgical team hierarchy and intimidation among team members accompanied by failure of communication and lack of staff education play a role. Recommendations by the commission to combat this problem include:

  • Devise a reliable operating room protocol involving a counting system to ensure all surgical instruments are counted;
  • Create effective and standardized hospital-wide policies and procedures covering counting systems, wound opening and closing and directives for when X-rays should be ordered for review to indicate a missing surgical instrument; and
  • Team briefings and debriefings should be part of the surgical protocol standards with all team members encouraged to express any concerns regarding patient safety.

It is reported that thousands of patients leave the hospital without any immediate indication of a retained foreign body. Although there are reported cases of various surgical instruments left behind, the most common instance of a retained foreign body is the surgical sponge often used to absorb bodily fluids during surgical procedures. Many patients retaining surgical sponges may develop mystery symptoms lasting for months or even years. Patients recall intense pain, digestive dysfunction and life-threatening infections before the medical issue has been properly diagnosed.

If you believe you are experiencing the pain of a retained foreign body following a recent surgical procedure, immediately seek medical assistance then contact the skilled San Jose surgery error malpractice attorneys of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard L.L.P. Our dedicated legal team believes no surgical error is a small one and we will fight to secure the rights you deserve. Contact our offices toll-free at (408) 289-1417 today.

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