In spite of increased focus on helping reduce surgical errors, especially extremely preventable ones like leaving behind foreign objects in the patient's body during surgery, these incidents are far too common. According to the results of a new study released recently, these are extremely preventable problems and are occurring far too often.
According to The Joint Commission, which is a healthcare industry watchdog group, hospitals must take more steps to avoid surgical complication incidents involving retained surgical items. These complications arise when surgical objects, including knives, scalpels, sponges and needles or other implements are left behind in a patient's body. This is a problem that has the potential to cause not just serious complications, but also the death of the patient.
According to the Joint Commission study, over the past seven years, there have been more than 770 reports of retained surgical objects that have been reported to the Commission. In sixteen of these incidents these cases resulted in the death of the patient. In 95% of the cases, these incidents of surgical object retention created extra complications that resulted in the patient having to extend their hospital stay.
In most of the cases, the surgical objects left behind in the body were sponges and towels, broken parts of medical instruments used in the surgery, bits of staplers and needles, as well as other implements.
What is very worrisome about these incidents is they're not exactly uncommon. They occur far too often in American hospitals, even though these are some of the most preventable errors. Making a complete count of all objects and instruments before and after the surgery, timeout during the surgery, and promoting excellent teamwork and coordination in the operating room can help reduce the risk of such surgical errors.