Surgical Implements Too Often Left Behind in Patients
Breakdowns in surgical team communication often at fault, watchdog group says
THURSDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- There have been more than 770 reports of retained foreign objects in surgical patients over the last seven years, according to the watchdog group The Joint Commission.
Ana McKee, M.D., the commission's executive vice president and chief medical officer, noted in a press conference today that the 770 cases reported are probably only the tip of the iceberg. The actual number of these incidents may be closer to 1,500 to 2,000 each year. These mistakes can also lead to financial outlay: According to the commission, leaving objects inside patients costs as much as $200,000 in medical liability payments for each case.
Of the 770 cases reported, there were 16 deaths as a result. In almost 95 percent of the cases, patients had to have their hospital stay extended. The objects most often left inside patients included sponges and towels, broken parts of instruments, and stapler parts and needles or other sharp pieces. According to the commission, the problem occurred nine times more often during emergency operations than in planned ones and was four times more likely to happen if the procedure was unexpectedly changed.
"It is critical for organizations to develop and comply with policies and procedures to make sure all surgical items are identified and accounted for as well as to ensure there is open communication by all members of the surgical team about any concern," McKee said during the press briefing.
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