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Surgery patients may be in danger from forgotten tools

According to medical device manufacturers, one out of every 5,500 surgeries will result in a surgical tool being accidentally forgotten and left inside a patient's body. The vast majority of these devices, or about 70 percent, are surgical sponges. Hospital administrators in Ohio and around the country may know that such incidents result in a total of $2.4 billion in losses to health care systems.

Some device makers have tried to reduce the rate of device retention by including scannable bar codes on each of their items. One nurse with the University of Michigan Health System claims that such improvements have made it easier to keep track of the quantity of items in use so that none go missing. Most health care providers count their items manually to prevent such events, but 88 percent of retention cases involve tally inaccuracies.

Experts note that patients also bear heavy costs when surgeons and other caregivers commit these forms of medical mistakes. One industry insider notes that patients who retain devices like sponges could suffer serious complications as the body attempts to reject them. About 4.5 percent of sponge-related incidents result in death, and more than 16 percent of individuals sustain permanent injuries.

Surgical errors like leaving a sponge inside a patient's body can occur for numerous reasons. Although some facilities are precise about counting their devices so as not to make mistakes, others might fail to do so as a result of individual negligence. Some facilities exhibit an institutionalized culture of insufficient adherence to standards. Patients who have been harmed in such a manner may want to meet with an attorney in order to discuss the legal remedies that may be available.

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