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Common surgical tools that are left in the body

On Behalf of | Sep 2, 2020 | Hospital Negligence

Most patients in New Jersey do not expect to get a surgical instrument left in their body after an operation. Statistics show that several thousand of these incidents happen in the United States annually. A surgical instrument left in the body can cause serious health issues and even be fatal in some cases.

Objects commonly left in the body

During surgery, a surgeon may use more than 150 instruments, which can raise the risk of losing track of them. Some common instruments left in patients include needles, tweezers, drain tips, scissors, scopes and scalpels. Needles and sponges are at the top of the list of surgical instruments left inside patients. Sponges in particular tend to blend with body organs, making them susceptible to get left behind.

Reasons tools get left

Medical facilities typically employ nurses and technicians to keep up with surgical tools. Human errors may come from miscounting due to fatigue or chaos during an emergency. Other contributing factors include patients with a high body mass index, changes during the procedure, multiple procedures and multiple teams for one surgery.

Risks of leaving surgical objects in the body

The risks associated with surgical tools being left in the body range from harmless to fatal. The patient may not notice anything different for months or years. Common symptoms of objects getting left in the body include fever, internal bleeding, digestive issues and severe pain. The patient often needs another surgery to remove the tool.


Smaller objects are at a greater risk of being left in the body. Since sponges top the list of being left after an operation, more medical facilities have implemented tracking devices. Sponges have bar codes that get scanned before and after surgery. Doctors can also keep track of towels and sponges with radio frequency technology, which detects them using X-rays.

Patients should be aware of any unusual symptoms after surgery. If a patient has an instrument in their body that causes damage, they may be able to file a medical malpractice claim.

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