“A sponge was left inside our client for nearly one year,” said Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer Michael A. Bottar, Esq., an attorney representing the patient and his family. “We believe it was a laparotomy sponge measuring nearly 12 inches by 18 inches. That’s the size of a kitchen dish towel. And it had a radio-opaque strip woven into the fabric so it should have been identified on a post-operative xray — had a study been ordered. The surgical team forgot that too. This was a complete comedy of errors.”
A retained surgical sponge is an avoidable mistake. To leave a sponge behind is either the result of surgical malpractice or nursing negligence. This is because surgeons and operating room nurses are supposed to know exactly how many sponges are used during a procedure and should not close until the sponge count is correct. “Ten in, ten out,” Bottar added.
Surgeons have an independent duty to check the abdominal cavity for sponges, even if advised by the nursing staff that that all sponges have been counted. This is because sponges and pads are known to stick together so a nurse, thinking that one sponge has been handed to a surgeon has actually handed over two. When one sponge is counted at the end of the procedure, it appears that the count is correct.
If sponges are identified and removed quickly, there is usually little harm other than a second surgical procedure. However, in this case, the sponge was allowed to fester. It led to a very serious infection, a bowel obstruction, the removal of more than one foot of his intestine and a ventral hernia. “On doctor’s orders, our client has been out of work for nearly one year. Once a manual laborer, he can no longer lift more than 5-10 pounds and, because of his permanent physical disability, just recently lost his job.”