Man Claims Surgical Implement Left Behind, Caused Ongoing Pain

Many of our Connecticut readers may be unsure whether the incidence of a sponge or other surgical instrument left inside the body after surgery is urban legend, or truth. In the case of a 62-year-old man who underwent cancer surgery the answer is, unfortunately, truth.

What is not a matter of debate is that a surgical instrument was left behind in the man’s body after his surgery was completed. The object, a retractor that was 8 inches long and 2 inches wide, was seen clearly on an x-ray and CT scan. What is a matter of debate, according to a medical malpractice lawsuit, is whether the device caused additional injuries to the patient.

According to a news report, the man experienced extreme pain and began running a fever three days after his surgery. When the retractor was discovered, he was taken into surgery again to remove the item and repair a perforation in the duodenal stump that was allegedly caused by the surgical instrument.

The perforation, according to the lawsuit, created additional complications including an abscess, infected abdominal cavity and sepsis. He was hospitalized for 17 days during this medical mishap.

To further complicate matters, the infections made him an unsuitable candidate for the chemotherapy and radiation that he should have received for his original medical issue – cancer.

The hospital that performed the surgery admitted to the surgical error of leaving the instrument behind, and offered the 62-year-old a monetary settlement of an undisclosed amount. The hospital further claimed that its record of leaving behind items in the body cavity after surgery isn’t as bad as the national average, and that the hospital has changed its policy to prevent additional errors.

The 62-year-old patient declined the offer and has decided to press forward with medical malpractice litigation, at least for now.

Source: KWTX, “Man Sues Scott White Over Surgical Glitch,” Megan Fleetwood, April 2, 2012