Retained Foreign Objects Left in the Body

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Surgical objects are left in the body every day in the United States. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, it adds up to more than 6,000 cases each year. (CNN, Surgical sponges left inside woman for at least 6 years).

For victims, a retained foreign object left in the body can cause devastating complications and severe pain. It may even be life-threatening. It is a catastrophic diagnosis that requires significant medical intervention.

What Types of Objects May Be Left in the Body After Surgery?

Objects that may be left in the body after surgery are:

  • Sponges
  • Clamps
  • Surgical tools
  • Gauze
  • Needles
  • Surgical retractor
  • Scalpels
  • Towels
  • Suction tips
  • Gloves
  • Scissors

With so many objects present in a surgical room, it’s possible for a variety of objects to be left in the body. These items may cause serious harm when they remain following a surgical procedure.

How Harmful Are Foreign Objects in the Body?

A foreign object left in the body may attach itself to live tissue. It may cause infection, pain, and discomfort. Sepsis and death may occur. Dr. Atul Gawande of Brigham and Women’s Hospital say 2/3s of cases result in serious complications.

The body reacts to the unknown and unwanted item. The object may migrate in the body, causing further harm. The victim may experience pain of an unknown origin. They may have infections and inflammatory reactions. Bowel obstruction and gastrointestinal bleeding may occur. A tumor may be suspected.

How Does an Object Get Left in the Body After Surgery?

A foreign object is left in the body after surgery because of poor communication and management of the surgical procedure. It is only because of human error and mistakes that an object can be left in the body.

Systems and protocols exist to make the surgical environment safe. Instruments and sponges should be counted and accounted for before and after surgery. When these systems fail because of a breakdown of those involved, an object may remain in the body to harm the victim.

(Open Access Maced J Med Sci, Retained Surgical Foreign Bodies After Surgery)

When Is a Retained Foreign Object in the Body a Medical Malpractice Case?

A foreign object left in the body is almost certainly a medical malpractice case. South Carolina Code § 15-79-110 defines medical malpractice as doing what a reasonable healthcare provider wouldn’t do or not doing what a reasonable healthcare provider would do.

A reasonable health care provider counts foreign objects and ensures they are not left in the body. The presence of the object alone following surgery should be sufficient to meet the burden to prove medical malpractice.

While a victim likely has a strong medical malpractice claim, they must bring a case following the required legal procedures. A statute of limitations applies. (S.C. Code § 15-3-545(B)).

What Compensation Can Victims Receive for Retained Foreign Objects?

Compensation that victims can receive for foreign objects left in the body may cover the range of economic and personal losses suffered by the victim. Damages may include:

  • Diagnostic testing to determine the existence of the foreign object
  • Additional surgery needed to remove the object
  • The cost of additional healing time and treatment needed for the original medical condition
  • Complications and the cost of care, hospitalization, and nursing expenses
  • Lost income and long-term career damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental injury and emotional anguish
  • Wrongful death damages

Because foreign objects usually cause medical complications, the value of these claims is often significant. A victim deserves compensation and recognition for the financial impact as well as the physical suffering and emotional anguish that they endure.

The Bobby Jones Law team can assist you in valuing your case and ensuring that you take the appropriate steps to claim compensation.

Pursuing Compensation for Retained Foreign Object Left in the Body

The Bobby Jones Law team represents victims and families in medical malpractice claims, including when foreign objects are left in the body. If you have been a victim, or if you have lost a loved one from a retained foreign object, you may receive compensation. There are time limits to file a claim and significant procedural requirements that must be followed.

Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights and begin your case.


The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
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