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Common surgical tools left inside of patients

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2019 | Firm News |

One of the scariest forms of medical malpractice is when the doctors accidentally end up leaving some of the stuff they were working with inside of the patient. Imagine feeling more confident about your body after leaving the hospital without knowing that they have left some of their tools inside you. It could take years before you realize the amount of internal damage this equipment is doing to your body.

One report states that doctors have accidentally left nearly 800 surgical tools inside patients between 2005 to 2013. While it’s heavily varied on what ends up in these victims, having so many accounts does show that certain tools are easier to lose than others. Both doctors and patients should know what items are most likely to be lost in the process in the event of surgical complications.


Surgical sponges are by far the most frequent tools doctors end up losing inside of the patient. The purpose of these is to soak up the blood that the patient loses during surgical procedures. What makes them so common to lose is that the amount of blood they absorb can make them difficult to see when they are right next to the patient’s other body parts.

Those having abdominal surgeries are arguably the most at risk. It’s the body’s largest area and a place where a lot of blood loss from surgery can occur. Those that don’t realize it right away can experience infections and negative side effects within a couple years. In February 2018, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that a woman who had two C-section surgeries after giving birth had sponges stuck inside her for at least 6 years. While she could tell something was wrong from her stomach pain and bloating, many other victims were less fortunate and died before they could find out about their botched surgeries.

Needles and scalpels

The term “needle in a haystack” becomes significantly more disturbing when you find out you are the haystack. Like sponges, needles and scalpels that sew or help cut open different organs can be difficult to see when they are covered in blood. That’s why they’re typically attached to a long base to make it easier for the doctor to grip. Unfortunately, any wrong moves can end up breaking the tip off and have it fall into the patient’s open body.

If a doctor notices that they left a needle inside of the patient’s body, they need to immediately remedy the situation. Leaving it inside can cause significant pain and deteriorating health for the victim. You can find one example within a 2018 Tennessee lawsuit, where a family sued a doctor for failing to remove a needle from a patient during open heart surgery. When the doctor realized his mistake, he opened the chest up and failed to locate the needle before sewing it sewing it back up again. The victim suffered a painful month before passing away and the needle was removed only after his death.

If there’s any silver lining to these horrible incidents, it’s that they are easier to prove the doctor was liable for the mistake than with several other medical malpractice cases. They are a clear example of a patient suffering from a medical professional’s mistake. The families of the victim deserve compensation for their hardships and should consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney.