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Surgical equipment left inside thousands of patients each year

When patients go to a hospital for a surgical procedure, they often feel feel nervous. Whether the hospital is located in Baltimore or another state, patients have common fears prior to surgery. Some patients might be concerned about needles necessary for intravenous fluids. Others are uncomfortable with the concept of anesthesia and may be worried about unexpected complications during the surgery. Many patients have anxiety wondering about their pain levels once the surgery is complete. Rarely, however, do patients worry that a surgical error will result in a sponge or gauze being left inside their bodies.

In the last five years, there have been several studies finding that surgical supplies are being left inside of patients in substantial numbers. In fact, 4,500 to 6,000 individuals nationwide each year can expect to find a sponge, needle, instrument or other item left in their bodies post-surgery. Sponges are most likely to be forgotten in the abdominal area, and studies suggest that they are more likely to be left inside obese patients. Other studies indicate that unscheduled emergency surgeries can cause surgical teams to lose sponges inside patients more frequently.

Worsened medical conditions are common for patients who leave the hospital with a sponge or other surgical equipment left inside their bodies. These complications can surface immediately, or they can take months or years to cause problems. If you or a family member suspect that a sponge, gauze, or other surgical item is causing you to suffer medical problems, you should see a doctor for full diagnosis. You may also wish to speak to a legal professional who specializes in medical malpractice or medical professional negligence.

Source: USA Today, "What surgeons leave behind costs some patients dearly", Peter Eisler, March 8, 2013

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