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Report Reveals 800 Surgical Tools Left Inside Patients Since 2005

Update Date: Oct 19, 2013 10:46 AM EDT
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When people go under the knife, there are several risks involved regardless of the success rates. Since surgery requires doctors to open up the body, complications, such as bleeding, arise. In a new report, researchers from the Joint Commission, which is a nonprofit health care safety watchdog organization, reported that one major risk from surgery is getting patched up with surgical tools still inside the body. Even though this situation sounds farfetched, the report stated that since 2005, there have been a little under 800 cases in which surgical patients had some type of surgical tool left inside their bodies by mistake.

"Leaving a foreign object behind after surgery is a well-known problem, but one that can be prevented," Dr. Ana Pujols McKee, chief medical officer of The Joint Commission, said in a statement reported by CBS News.

According to the report, the researchers totaled 772 cases of foreign objects that were left inside surgical patients between 2005 and 2012. Foreign objects that are left inside the body can lead to potentially dangerous situations. These objects, such as sponges, towels, needles and fragments of tools, can move around and cause obstruction. Even if they do not hurt any organs, opening up the patient once more to remove them increases risk of complications. In the report, the researchers found that surgical tools left in patients caused 16 deaths. This mistake also led to extended hospital stays for 95 percent of the cases.

The report found that surgical tools were most commonly left inside the body on the operating table, labor and delivery rooms, ambulatory surgery centers or in labs where medical personal performed invasive procedures, such as catheters or colonoscopies. The report cited that the most common causes for this medical mistake were lack of policies, failure to create new procedures and to comply with old ones, poor communication between doctors and complications within hospital staff members.

"It's critical to establish and comply with policies and procedures to make sure all surgical items are identified and accounted for, as well to ensure that there is open communication by all members of the surgical team about any concerns," said McKee.

The report can be accessed here.

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