Surgery is an invasive procedure that has many inherent risks and complications. A patient places his or her trust in the surgical team to provide the best level of care and ensure a safe, successful procedure. However, mistakes happen. It may be hard to believe that one of the most common errors committed by surgeons and surgical teams is leaving medical instruments inside a patient.
Surgical instruments left inside a patient after an operation can result in physical complications, pain and suffering, and even death. Call the experienced Baltimore retained sponge from surgery injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 431-0911 to schedule a free legal consultation.
Sponges and Other Instruments Left Inside a Patient After Surgery
Surgery can be difficult and tedious, and complications can arise, straining the abilities of sleep-deprived surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists. This chaotic environment can lead to critical errors and mistakes. One of the most shocking errors is leaving behind surgical sponges or instruments inside the patient.
The frequency of unintended retention of foreign objects (URFO) or retained sponges and instruments (RSI) is quite high. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, RSIs occur in 1 out of every 1,000 to 1,500 surgeries. Another study in the Annals of Surgery found that sponge errors occur in about 12.5% of surgeries. It is difficult to determine an exact number of retained sponges because RSIs do not need to be reported if the results are not considered major complications or permanent losses of function. Some studies suggest that 70% of all objects retained in surgery are sponges.
There are many contributing factors as to why sponges are left behind after surgery. The most common reason is simply a failure to accurately count all of the instruments before and after the surgery. Also, exhausted surgical teams often miscommunicate during the procedure, leading to some sponges getting lost behind tissue or organs. Operating rooms can be extremely chaotic environments where unforeseen complications arise. It is not surprising that emergency rooms tend to see a larger frequency of retained sponge injuries.
Symptoms of Retained Sponges After Surgery
Many times, a sponge or instrument may be left behind after surgery without any complications. It is often difficult to determine if postoperative symptoms or complications are a direct result of a retained sponge. Sponges left inside an abdominal cavity can fester with bacteria resulting in infections, blockages, inflammation of the abdominal wall (peritonitis), bowel perforations, or gastrointestinal perforation, but many of these symptoms can also be attributed to other causes. Some post-surgical symptoms of retained sponges include the following:
- High fever
- Discoloration of the incision area
- Blistering or swelling of the incision area
- Bad odors from the incision area
- Stitches pulling apart
- Increased pain and fatigue
- Vomiting or coughing up blood
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Constipation or difficulty urinating
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms after surgery, or if something else feels or looks wrong, consult with one of our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers to help determine if you were the victim of a surgical error.
Types of Damages From Instruments or Sponges Left Behind After Surgery in Baltimore
Removing sponges that were left behind after a surgical procedure requires another invasive operation. Any operation can result in additional medical costs, potential pain and suffering, and additional time off work and lost income.
Maryland has a financial cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims, such as damages for pain and suffering. The amount of non-economic damages is capped at $815,000, increasing to $830,000 in 2020. Actual economic damages, such as medical expenses and loss of income, are not capped. In rare cases where a surgeon was proven to have acted maliciously or as part of a serious pattern of negligence, punitive damages might be awarded.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawsuits for Retained Sponges After Surgery
To recover damages, you must show that the medical professional breached the standard of care expected of them. Breaching the standard of care means that the surgeon or another member of the surgical team deviated from normally accepted practices or treatments.
To get compensation for medical malpractice, you must also prove that their mistake was the proximate cause of the injury. To prove proximate cause, you must show that the injury is a direct result of the breach of care. Moreover, you will need to prove that you suffered actual damages. These can be economic or noneconomic damages directly related to the injury.
Maryland’s statute of limitations requires a medical malpractice claim to be brought within five years of the date of the injury. Alternatively, a claim will need to come three years from the date you discovered the injury or reasonably should have discovered the injury. Many retained instrument and retained sponge injuries are difficult to discover, but you usually need to find the sponge and file your claim within 5 years or else you might lose your opportunity to seek damages.
Maryland also requires cases to be certified by a qualified medical expert within 90 days of filing the medical malpractice claim. A qualified expert must be a licensed medical professional in Maryland or have a comparable license from another state. Additionally, the medical professional must be knowledgeable in the accepted standard of care in the same discipline as the defendant medical professional. Failure to file this certification or have it waived will result in your claim being dismissed.
Call a Baltimore Injury Lawyer for Retained Surgical Sponge Cases Today for a Free Consultation
A doctor leaving a sponge or another instrument inside your body after surgery can lead to medical complications, additional surgery, pain and suffering, difficult recovery time, loss of work, and even death. The experienced Baltimore retained sponge injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice will work tirelessly to help you pursue your medical malpractice claim. Call (410) 431-0911 today to schedule a free consultation.