Patient Steals Operating Device from Operating Room

NeuwirthLawFor Lawyers, Medical Malpractice, Standard of Care

So, this is lawyer humor for when surgeons unintentionally leave surgical material behind in patients and stitch the patient up and send them home. Neither the patient nor the doctor realize that a sponge, clamp or other item was left inside the patient until the patient starts having pain in the area. Sometimes, the pain will not appear for months or years. Once the retained instrument is identified, surgery is almost always the only proper response.

These are called Never Events by Medicare and all others in the hospital field. They are never supposed to happen.  There was a recent Inquirer article reporting that these incidents still occur with some regularity.  The recent data I have seen reports that 1 in 1600 surgeries have a patient with a retained item.  This sounds pretty high to me.

I am working on a case where a piece of a robotic surgical device fell off inside a patient and was not recognized as missing. A year later, the patient has severe pain in the area and needed a second surgery. Easy case, right? Yes. In the past, the most common device left behind was a surgical sponge. The Operating Room teams learned that they had to count sponges going in to make sure that the same number came out.  Many items are metallic and xrays detect them before closing a patient. Other items can be radio tagged. However, for now it seems that having a robot performing the surgery allows for pieces to fall off and be stolen by the patient!

Be safe out there.