Severe complications caused by retained sponges
USA Today reports that in most cases of retained surgical items, it is gauzy sponges that are left behind in a surgical site. Surgeons often use dozens of these materials to soak up bodily fluid and blood around the point of operation, making it easier to see. As the gauze become saturated, they become hard to distinguish amidst the tissue and other organs.
Currently, many surgical centers use a basic counting system to keep track of surgical equipment before and after a surgery is performed. Yet, statistics show that this method is highly ineffective. Researchers at Mount Sinai hospital in New York found that counting surgical equipment helped to effectively identify cases where an item went missing 77 percent of the time. Studies also show that in four out of five incidents when a sponge is retained, the surgical staff reports that they have accounted for all sponges.
Dangers of retained sponges
Retained sponges can cause dysfunction, extreme pain, impairment and even death. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, infection is the greatest risk to a patient who has a retained sponge. Retained gauze and sponges can actually become embedded within organ walls. This can cause severe infection that can potentially spread throughout the body. In some cases, it is necessary to remove certain organs in order to clear up the damage that has been done. This can lead to weeks or months of hospitalization. Other cases result in patient fatalities.
Lives torn apart
A Kentucky woman filed a medical malpractice suit after finding that the source of her excruciating abdominal pain and vomiting was a retained sponge. It had been left behind by the surgeon who had performed a hysterectomy nearly four years before. The New York Times reported the gruesome details of how the sponge had actually adhered to the outer lining of the woman’s bladder and abdomen, causing a massive infection that resulted in the loss of a large portion of her intestine. The woman continues to suffer from bowel problems that leave her unable to work. She is also tormented by depression and anxiety stemming from the life-threatening incident.
What was supposed to be a joyful time of bringing a new baby into the world turned into a woman’s fight for life a short month after having a cesarean section, according to USA Today. Approximately four weeks after having her baby, the Alabama woman’s stomach had swollen to resemble her pregnancy state. Her bowels shut down completely, and a large sponge was found in her abdominal cavity. After a six-hour surgery and three weeks in the hospital, the woman still suffers from digestive issues and may not be able to have another child.
In addition to physical pain, scarring and sickness, victims of retained sponges suffer from extreme emotional and psychological trauma as well. Many are unable to live the life that they once had prior to having a retained surgical sponge.