Leaving Instruments Inside Patient

Retained foreign objects, also referred to as the unintended retention of foreign objects (URFOs) or retained surgical items (RSIs), are any items or foreign objects that are left inside the patient after surgery. Many hospitals have protocols in place to preempt these preventable mistakes, but not all personnel follow the procedures, and sometimes the protocols are subpar or non-existent.

During a seven-year span, 772 cases of URFOs were reported to the Joint Commission, including 16 deaths. Approximately 95 percent of the cases resulted in an extended hospital stay for the patient. These figures could be grossly understated because reporting to the Joint Commission is voluntary; there is no centralized, mandatory reporting requirement for URFOs.

The Joint Commission and industry experts are fully aware that new measures should be taken to prevent these deadly incidents.

Common Types of Retained Foreign Objects

Instances of URFOs have occurred in numerous locations where invasive procedures take place, including operating rooms, labor and delivery areas, and ambulatory surgery centers.

Below are some of the most common types of retained foreign objects.

  • Sponges and other soft items such as towels
  • Needles
  • Instruments such as malleable retractors
  • Unretrieved device components
  • Broken parts of instruments
  • Catheters
  • Stapler components
  • Parts of laparoscopic trocars
  • Other small miscellaneous items

Why do instances of Retained Foreign Objects occur?

The Joint Commission reports that the causes of many URFOs fall into six primary categories.

  • There are no policies and procedures in place to avoid URFOs.
  • The staff fails to comply with the existing policies and procedures.
  • There are staffing hierarchy issues and problems with intimidation.
  • The physicians have a lack of communication.
  • Staff fails to communicate important patient information.
  • The staff is inadequately trained.

There are also several risk factors that may contribute to URFOs. They are listed below.

  • Patients with a high body mass index
  • Intra-abdominal surgery
  • Patients who are getting more than one surgery performed
  • Multiple surgical teams participating
  • Staff turnovers during the procedure
  • Lengthy surgeries
  • Emergency surgeries (emergency surgeries pose a nine times greater risk of URFOs than planned surgeries)

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Many instances of URFOs are the result of negligence. With proper practices, many injuries and patient deaths could be prevented.

  • Preventative protocols
  • Good communication practices
  • Documentation for surgical items
  • Use of new assistive technologies that help track surgical items

If your doctor left an object behind after your surgery, you might be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover your damages, including pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and any subsequent losses. Not only might you be able to obtain a financial settlement, but taking legal action could be an important catalyst for policy change, which in turn, might prevent other people from suffering the pain that you have.

Talk to an Attorney

If you or your loved one were harmed because of a medical staff’s negligence, call our medical malpractice attorneys in Florida at Chalik & Chalik. Our caring yet tenacious attorneys make it their mission to help injured patients hold liable parties responsible and obtain sizable settlements for their losses.

Contact us today at 855-529-0269 for a free legal consultation.

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