How Often Are Surgical Instruments Left inside Patients?

On average, nearly 1,500 patients have surgical instruments left inside of them every year, according to a 2007 study done by the Loyola University Health System. Most instruments that are left behind inside the patients' bodies are left during emergency operations. Objects left inside of a patient can cause serious infections, pain, and inhibit proper healing after surgery. The most common surgical instruments left inside a patient are sponges — sponges consist of two-thirds of all objects that are left behind. Patients can suffer for months or years post-surgery before lost sponges are determined to be the cause.

More about surgical instruments:

  • Hospitals have adopted procedures, such as scanning instruments bar codes, to ensure all are accounted for post-surgery.

  • Lost instruments inside of patients accounts for more than $60,000 US Dollars (USD) according to Medicare.

  • A 2012 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services noted that only 1% of hospitals are reporting medical errors, such as lost instruments, in the states that require reporting of these events.

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