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Retained Sponge After Surgery Common Cause of Syracuse New York Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

As Syracuse medical malpractice lawyers, the Bottar Law, PLLC legal team frequently handles cases where surgeons fail to properly count and remove surgical instruments and/or supplies from a patient. Common examples of surgical instruments left in the abdomen after surgery include sponges, pads, towels, needles, clips and clamps. Most of the time, sponges are left behind during abdominal surgery (55%) and vaginal deliveries (16%).

When a surgical instrument is left behind, it is typically the result of negligence on the part of the surgeon or the operating room nursing staff. This is because a surgeon should not close a patient until s/he knows that the surgical “count” is correct. Meaning, if ten sponges and two clamps were used during surgery, the surgeon should not close the surgical site until s/he knows that the sponges and clamps are accounted for. When counts are incorrect, the surgeon should look for the missing items before closing. If they cannot be found by visual inspection, then radiographs should be ordered. Most surgical instruments are embedded with a thin wire that is visible on an x-ray.

Often, due to fatigue by a member of the surgical team, which includes the surgeon and operating room nurses, the count will appear correct when it is not. The most common reason for an inaccurate count is when sponges or pads stick together. In that instance it looks like one pad was used when, in fact, two pads were used. Since no one in the operating suite would be on the look-out for the second pad, it may be left behind.

In 2000, the AORN Recommended Practices Committee stated that sponges should be counted five times during a procedure: (1) before the procedure starts (to determine how many sponges are in the suite); (2) before closure of the cavity; (3) before closure of the wound; (4) at skin closure; and (5) when the scrub nurse or circulating nurse permanently breaks scrub.

There are many complications associated with a retained surgical instrument, including pain, infection, organ perforation, and death.

To determine whether you have claim for injury, contact a Syracuse surgical error lawyer at Bottar Law, PLLC, a firm that has been representing the victims of negligence and malpractice since 1983. Our results speak for themselves. Contact us today at (833) 268-8277 or by email at

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