It is one of life’s ironies that the simplest and most preventable mistakes are sometimes the most devastating. In medicine, for instance, the most skilled surgeon can cause serious harm to a patient by being careless about collecting tools at the end of a procedure.

When surgical sponges and other tools are left inside of a patient, the consequences can be highly injurious and even fatal. The problem of retained foreign objects is more prevalent than most people realize. It is a surgical error that has affected a significant number of patients here in New Jersey and around the country.

Last month, a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit went to trial in Ohio. The plaintiff alleged that his wife suffered serious medical complications and died as a result of a retained surgical sponge in her abdomen. The sponge stayed in her body for about seven months, and she died just 15 months after the initial surgery.

Mistakes like this are often the culmination of several smaller events that increase the risk of error. In this particular case, the woman’s surgery took about 17 hours, necessitating a shift change for certain personnel involved. It also appears as though the surgical team was relying on the “count-in, count-out” method to keep track of surgical sponges. This tracking method has proven to be unreliable a significant portion of the time.

According to news sources, the trial lasted about a week and jurors awarded $100,000 to the deceased woman’s family. Jurors decided that the retained sponge was not responsible for the woman’s death, but that it did cause injuries.

If you or a family member has been suffering mysterious complications after surgery, a retained foreign object could be the problem. After seeking medical advice (from a different provider, if possible) please share your concerns with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Dayton Daily News, “Sponge left in woman’s body leads to medical malpractice suit,” Mark Gokavi, July 14, 2014