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Philly Surgical Teams Leave Items in Patients’ Bodies

Posted on May 20, 2024

Philadelphia-area surgical teams have left objects inside patients’ bodies over 200 times in the last six years, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer recently. While relatively rare, such a mistake can have devastating and even tragic consequences.

The Inquirer analyzed billing records for every patient admitted to a Philadelphia area hospital from 2017-2022. The reporters also interviewed safety experts and reviewed hundreds of medical malpractice lawsuits. The results were “chilling,” according to the article.

Todd Gordon, a 29-year-old motocross pro, had a routine biopsy. For two years afterward, he found himself laboring to breathe. Unbeknownst to him, the surgical team had left 6-8 feet of surgical gauze in his body. The gauze had become infected, ballooning with fluid to the size of a golf ball, and squeezing his windpipe shut. The surgery to correct the mistake took 7 hours.

Pottstown resident Lauren Marsh had an emergency C-section. It was chaotic and rushed, and the nurse failed to count each sponge before the start. Afterward, the hospital missed the warning signs, which included an image of the sponge on a post-surgical x-ray, the patient’s complaints of abdominal pain, and a white blood cell count that signaled possible infection. She was in pain for months, until the sponge was discovered. It had invaded her intestines and damaged her bowels.

Medical mistakes with “unintended retained foreign objects” are among the nation’s top 5 causes of death and severe harm, noted the article. Such errors are estimated to take place in one out of 5,500 surgeries. Items left include surgical sponges, broken drill bits, tips of suture needles, guide wires, screws, and gauze. These objects can result in infections, permanent organ damage, loss of bodily function, and additional costly operations. Patients can suffer for years before the cause is known.

The state Patient Safety Authority maintains the country’s largest data bank of adverse patient events, which include these retained foreign bodies. Pennsylvania requires hospitals to report these events. However, they do not have to do so if another hospital caused the error. While it is strongly encouraged, there is no real accountability.

A medical error could result in severe and even life-threatening consequences. If you need a top Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer to help with your case , please contact us. Tom Duffy has obtained recoveries and settlements from most of the large teaching hospitals and universities in the Philadelphia area.