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Doctors leave surgical sponges in woman’s abdomen

When Oklahoma patients undergo a surgical procedure, they don’t expect sponges or other instruments to be left in their bodies. However, that’s exactly what happened to a woman in Japan according to a report recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The woman, age 42, complained to her doctors that she had been suffering from bloating in her abdomen for around three years. A physical examination and a CT scan revealed two masses, one near each of her hip bones. According to the results of the CT scan, the masses contained “hyperdense, stringy structures.” Her doctors performed surgery and found that the masses were tucked into spaces of her abdomen known as the paracolic gutters, which separate the abdominal wall from the colon. They removed them and cut them open, finding gauze sponges encased in fibrous tissue.

The woman had undergone two cesarean sections in the past. One was conducted nine years before the sponges were found, and one was conducted three years before. According to the journal report, the doctors were unable to determine if the sponges were left behind during the first cesarean operation or the second. Studies have found that incidents of leaving surgical instruments inside a patient’s body are rare, occurring in between 1 in 5,000 surgeries to 1 in 18,760 surgeries. However, such mistakes may be more common with gynecological procedures.

Victims of surgical errors have the right to sue the responsible doctors or hospitals for damages, including medical expenses and pain and suffering. An attorney familiar with hospital negligence and medical malpractice claims may help a victim gather evidence supporting his or her complaint and file the lawsuit in court.

Source: Live Science, “Here’s What Happens When You Leave Surgical Sponges in a Person’s Body for Years,” Rachel Rettner, 02/21/2018