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A Small Price for Surgical Safety

According to recent statistical surveys, a nurse assigned to keep a manual count of sponges used in a surgery becomes the lifeline of a patient in an average, unruly operating room. Surgical safety must be on everyone’s mind in the operating room. About 4,000 cases of “retained surgical items” are reported in the United States alone, every year. Of this number, more than half involve cases on gauzelike sponges left behind in large cavities of the body. In lesser instances, scalpels, clamps, and scissors are still lodged in the patient’s body after stitching is done.

Sophia Savage, 59, and a nurse in Kentucky, felt severe abdominal pain in an overnight shift seven years ago. Her doctor revealed after a CT scan that a surgical sponge was still intact in her abdomen after a hysterectomy she underwent four years prior.

An operation had to be scheduled immediately to remove the decomposing sponge. Upon the completion of the surgery, a large portion of Ms. Savage’s intestine was removed. She won $2.5 million in damages after suing the hospital where her hysterectomy took place. However, the award had been appealed leaving her in ruins. She has been experiencing anxiety and depression ever since the ordeal.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina have introduced a more accurate approach to remedy this problem. In the duration of eleven months, 23 forgotten sponges from approximately 3,000 patients have been recovered. This technology, called RF Assure Detection, adds $10 more to the cost of the operation.

Dr. Leo Brancazio, the medical director of labor and delivery at Duke University Hospital, adopted the RF Assure system 18 months ago and adds that the technology is a small price to pay to enhance patient safety. A sponge had been left in a patient after a caesarean delivery before he employed RF Assure Detection and he vowed to never operate in a hospital without the system after the incident.

Another tracking method for counting surgical sponges would be to use bar code technology. Every sponge is given a bar code which is scanned before and after use.

Despite the availability and affordability of more advanced technologies to guarantee that all surgical equipment is removed from a patient’s body after an operation, most hospitals still make use of traditional means. The American College of Surgeons and the Association of Operating Room Nurses both advocate the use of revolutionized surgical sponge-counting methods.

If you have been injured due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health care provider, contact the Chicago personal injury firm of Mike Agruss Law, for a free consultation. We will handle your case quickly, we will advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Call us today to discuss your surgical safety problem and to protect your rights.

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