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Surgical errors and health care costs

A surgical sponge costs an Oklahoma hospital roughly a penny on average. However, it can cost a hospital up to $600,000 on average if that sponge or other objects are left inside of a patient. Those costs include legal costs and the fact that an additional surgery needs to occur to take the object out. In 70 percent of all retained object cases, sponges were the item left in the patient.

An object is left in a patient roughly once for every 5,500 surgeries that are performed. These mistakes cost hospitals $2.4 billion each year, but hospitals are looking at new ways to make sure that objects do not remain inside of patients. For instance, some manufacturers have added barcodes to sponges to ensure that an accurate count is possible throughout the surgery. If a sponge is missing, the surgical team knows to look for it.

The reason why sponges are left in patients to begin with is because they blend in once they enter the patient. However, a representative from the University of Michigan Health System says that the technology has been beneficial because manual counts can be subject to human error. In fact, 88 percent of cases where instruments were retained involved inaccurate counts.

Leaving sponges in a patient's body is unfortunately a fairly common form of surgical error. Some statistics have shown that more than 16 percent of patients who have had this happen to them are permanently injured, and nearly 5 percent die as a result. An attorney representing an injured patient or the surviving family members of one who died could assist in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit that would seek appropriate damages from the hospital and the practitioner.

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