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What are retained surgical items?

When you enter the operating room for a surgical procedure, you entrust your health and life to the hands of medical professionals who are licensed and trained to perform. Although you may feel like you are in good hands, there are a number of things that may go wrong once you enter the OR. One potential issue involves retained surgical items, which includes equipment that is left behind in an operating site once you are sutured up. Surgical items that are left behind can cause serious problems, including infection, and may lead to long-term damage. Surprisingly, this type of medical negligence occurs more often than you may think.

Surgical sponges are the most common piece of equipment left behind in an operating site. These gauze-like items are used by surgeons to soak up blood and fluids during the procedure. Once they are saturated, however, they easily blend in to the organs and other areas in the body. To ensure no items have been left behind, the surgical staff is responsible for counting all medical supplies before, during and after the procedure. Interestingly enough, the counts have been on even in cases where something is left behind inside a patient.

In order to prevent retained surgical items, some medical institutions have implemented other methods of accounting for surgical supplies, including bar coding and radiofrequency tagging. Microchips installed in the sponges will react to a wand that is waved over the patient’s body once the procedure is complete.

This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.

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