Arizona surgical patients might have heard of a woman who went to a Southern California hospital for a hysterectomy in 2007. After the surgery, the woman left the hospital only to return three days later with abdominal issues. The hospital took an X-ray and diagnosed her with severe constipation before sending her home. However, this did not solve the woman's problem.
Over the years, she experienced fainting, nausea, extreme thirst, blurred vision and abdominal pain. In 2008, the woman's coworkers took her to the hospital after she nearly fainted, but the hospital said that she should avoid spicy food due to a gastrointestinal problem. When she began to experience vaginal bleeding in 2011, her gynecologist thought she had an ovarian cyst and had her ovaries removed. At this time, a mass was detected, which was a surgical sponge that had been left in her during the hysterectomy four years prior. The surgical sponge had been in her for so long that it was encased with scar tissue. Surgeons then removed the sponge along with 50 percent of the woman's intestines.
In 2012, the California Department of Public Health fined the hospital $25,000 for the mistake. Just a few months later, the hospital was issued another fine for leaving a surgical clamp inside a patient. The hospital made a statement, saying that it takes full responsibility and that it has put additional safeguards in place to promote patient safety.
Medical staffs are expected to make an accurate count of equipment before and after surgical procedures. A court may consider a failure to do so to be a surgical error based in negligence. Not only can such errors lead to fines against medical facilities, but also the patients who were harmed may consider filing medical malpractice lawsuits to seek compensation for their additional expenses as well as their pain and suffering.
Source: Daily News, "California woman sues hospital after forgotten surgical sponge forces removal of intestines", Deborah Hastings, June 18, 2014