Causes of Retained Surgical Sponges after Abdominal Surgery Have Been Identified

According to a study published in the August Issue of the AORN Journal, a journal for operating room nurses, the objective of the study was to identify potential failures or causes during a surgery that led to retained sponges after elective abdominal surgery.

The investigators identified 57 cases where there were potential counting failures, which were mainly caused by room preparation, adding or removing sponges, initial sponge count, and the first or final count. Over 50% of the failures happened before the closing or final count, with an astounding 106 failures or cause combinations. The most frequent causes of retained sponges were distraction, multi-tasking, not following policy and time constraints. The final count, which is the most important one, received the highest hazard score. Unfortunately, it is believed that additional educational interventions are not likely to fix this surgical error. According to the authors, "Surgical counts are failure prone processes that are not likely to be affected by traditional education and disciplinary intervention." In the future, hopefully there will be technological advances that will take the sponge count out of human hands in an attempt to improve patient safety.

Any patient who has a retained surgical sponge, surgical towel, surgical gauze or surgical pad can develop an abdominal infection, abscess or sepsis which is an overwhelming, and potentially deadly, infection throughout the entire body. Sometimes, the body will recognize the foreign body and try to seal it off or encapsulate it. Other times, in an attempt to try and get rid of the retained surgical item, the body will try and attack it and it causes an inflammatory reaction in the abdomen. The inflammatory reaction can lead to adhesions, scar tissue, perforations of the bowel or internal organ damage. Many patients who have retained surgical items in their abdomen may go on to have a portion of their bowel removed due to extensive scar tissue, damage or adhesions.

Here at The Beasley Firm, our hospital negligence lawyers in Philadelphia have evaluated and successfully helped patients who had suffered from infections or abdominal problems that occurred because of a retained surgical sponge or surgical tool. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a retained surgical sponge or other surgical item, please feel free to call us at (215) 866-2424 for a strictly confidential and free consultation. Our experienced medical and legal surgical error teams are here to help you.