Estimates show your chances of a surgeon leaving something behind after an operation are one in 1,000. There are about 1,500 such events each year in the U.S., and include items such as:
- Surgical masks
- Drain tips
Recently, Reddit asked surgeons to comment on the most dangerous items they'd personally seen or found inside a human's body during surgery. Most of the replies came from people who'd experienced the physical pain that items left behind can cause, but a few medical professionals related accounts they'd witnessed:
I’m an anesthesiologist (not a surgeon) but I did the anesthesia for a scary operation. On a hospital ship in Vietnam, during Tet (in 1968) a soldier presented with an unexploded mortar wound, partially imbedded in his abdomen. We removed it succesfully without incident. To be honest, I was behind a bulkhead with several sections of tubing providing anesthesia.
Another nurse related this account involving a needle left in someone's spine:
...she had surgery and the anesthesiologists broke a needle used for spinal block off in her back. It would not have been a problem except she didn’t tell anybody and it was found after it sat 2 years in my sisters spinal column against her cord and nerves doing damage. There’s a lawsuit currently… if people would just have good morals and not try to cover up it could have been fixed and it would not have been her fault.
In a complicated surgery, a surgeon might use over 250 different instruments or items to complete the procedure. If the tools used are not being tracked and accounted for, one could easily be left behind.
Many patients don't know to ask because they trust professionals to take care of them. Digestive issues, fever, swelling, infections or residual pain should be taken seriously, as it could be an indication that something is amiss.
Have you, or anyone you know, had a surgery in which an item was accidentally left inside the body?
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Disclaimer: This article is only for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended to provide legal or medical advice. For more information, follow linked references.
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