One surgical error that happens repeatedly, and that should theoretically never happen, is when the surgical team leaves an instrument behind after the procedure is done. Surgery can be chaotic and the entire team has to account for all of the tools and implements. One small mistake is all that it takes. 

The ramifications of this type of error vary a bit depending on what gets left behind, what type of surgery it was and how soon someone notices the mistake. For instance, a hard instrument like a scalpel may be clearly apparent to the patient from the immediate pain they feel as they recover, and the damage it does can be fatal. Something like a sponge or a cloth may not be readily apparent — remember, the patient expects some level of pain while healing — but could lead to an infection that shows up in the weeks after the surgery. 

Some of the items that surgeons often leave behind include:

  • Surgical masks
  • Towels
  • Sponges
  • Scalpels
  • Tubes
  • Tweezers
  • Clamps
  • Needles

This is just a small sampling, but you can see just how detrimental they can be to a person’s health. Often, softer items are easier to forget because they blend in. For instance, a sponge’s entire goal may be to soak up excess blood, but that just makes it harder to see when closing the incision. 

You know that surgery comes with risks. You can’t avoid that entirely. However, there are certain risks you should never have to face. When a doctor makes a critical error, it may be time to look into your legal options.