how many surgical patients have objects left inside them

While a list outlining everything from towels and needles to sponges and surgical retractors may seem innocent enough on its surface — perhaps a supply list outlining what types of materials could be found in a particular operating room in a hospital or surgical center — the horrifying reality is that this is actually a partial tally of some of the objects that medical professionals have left inside patients after surgeries since 2005.

According to a recently released report by the Joint Commission — an influential non-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care facilities that meet certain quality/safety standards — medical facilities across the U.S. need to take proactive measures to stop the growing incidence of unintended retention of foreign objects cases — or URFO — cases.

While you may harbor doubts as to how big an issue URFO cases really are, consider the following:

  • From 2005 to 2012, there were 772 URFO cases here in the U.S., 16 of which resulted in patient deaths. (Given that reporting is voluntary, the Joint Commission believes these numbers are likely even higher.)
  • Of these 772 URFO cases, 95 percent resulted in extended hospital stays for patients and averaged costs of anywhere between $166,000 and over $200,000.

All this, of course, begs the question as to why there is such an alarming number of UFRO cases here in the U.S. Given the inherent complexity of the surgical procedure being performed, one would imagine that having to count up sponges, tools and towels, or check surgical instruments for missing pieces, wouldn’t be that daunting a prospect for physicians, nurses or medical assistants.

Stay tuned for our next post, in which we’ll continue to discuss the Joint Commission’s report, including its theories as to why the rate of URFO cases is so high and, more significantly, the proposed solution to the problem.

If you or a loved one has suffered unimaginable pain because of a surgical error or what you believe to be medical malpractice, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options.

Source: Modern Healthcare, “Joint Commission calls for hospitals to address problem of objects left in surgical patients,” Ashok Selvam, Oct. 17, 2013

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