Retained surgical instruments may sound like the stuff of a horror movie: you go to the hospital for surgery and a sponge, gauze or a surgical instrument is left inside your body. Unfortunately, the problem of retained surgical instruments is very real, with Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare (PSQH) reporting that estimates range from 1 case of retained instruments in every 1,000 surgeries to 1 case of retained instruments for every 19,000 injuries.
Unfortunately, PSQH indicates that retained surgical instruments can cause serious health problems because the instrument often is not discovered right away. In fact, the mistake is discovered within a day in only six percent of cases. In most cases, the instrument is discovered around 21 days after the surgery, while in other instances, it may be months or years before the patient learns of the foreign body inside of him.
When a surgical instrument is accidentally left inside you, you have legal rights. You can take action with the help of a Marietta medical malpractice lawyer to hold the doctor, healthcare provider and/or hospital responsible for the consequences of their mistake. A Marietta medical malpractice lawyer can help you to obtain a variety of different types of compensation including payment of medical costs, payment for work time you miss (lost wages) and money to compensate you for emotional distress and pain and suffering. If the retained surgical instrument results in death, then surviving family members may also take legal action by filing a wrongful death claim.
The Dangers of Retained Surgical Instruments
A surgical instrument being left inside of your body presents a variety of different health risks, including a significant increased risk of infection or complications after the surgery. Patient Safety & Health Quarterly provided information about what occurs after a surgical instrument is left inside of a patient. Reporting the outcome of a 2003 ECRI Institute Study, they indicated that:
- 59 percent of patients must either stay in the hospital longer after their surgery or are readmitted at a late time.
- 69 percent of patients must undergo an additional surgery in order to remove the surgical object that was left inside during the first procedure.
- Almost 50 percent of patients develop sepsis or an infection as a result of the retained instrument.
- 15 percent of patients experience a fistula or obstruction of the small bowel
- Visceral perforation results in seven percent of cases
When a patient has to go back to the hospital or have another surgery, there are financial costs to this- as well as emotional and physical costs. Not only does the surgery have to be paid for, but the patient also undergoes the risk of going under anesthesia and additional surgical complications. In the event that infection or other medical problems develop, the situation becomes even worse as the patient may experience pain and may be at risk of serious complications including death.
A Marietta Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
A Marietta medical malpractice lawyer can assist patients who have been victimized by a doctor or surgeon leaving a surgical instrument in their bodies. Doctors and hospitals are expected to provide services to patients with a reasonable level of competence. For surgeons, this means providing care commensurate with what a reasonable doctor with a similar background and specialty would provide. For hospitals, this means having reasonable and appropriate policies in place to protect patients.
When a surgical instrument is left inside a patient, it is very clear that the surgeon did something wrong, and likely that the hospital also did not have proper safeguards and policies in place. As such, it isn’t hard to make a case that the doctor and hospital breached a legal duty and should be held legally accountable. In fact, in most cases, patients in retained surgical instruments cases don’t even have to prove negligence since a legal doctrine called res ipsa loquitor applies. This phrase literally means the thing speaks for itself. In other words, the fact that a surgical instrument could be left inside a patient is so obviously negligent that there’s no need to present additional evidence to prove it.
While it isn’t hard to prove liability in these cases, this doesn’t mean you don’t need a lawyer. In fact, being represented by a Marietta medical malpractice attorney in cases where a surgical instrument was left inside you can be even more important than in other types of malpractice cases. Doctors and healthcare providers know that they are in the wrong in these cases and may try to pressure you to accept a quick settlement or otherwise take steps to limit your right to recovery. A Marietta medical malpractice attorney will help you to stand up to the insurance companies and doctors/hospitals so you can get the compensation you deserve.
Have You Been The Victim Of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical error you need to speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 855.GA.INJURY or 404.991.5950 to schedule your free consultation.