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What if a surgeon leaves something behind?

After your surgery, you may expect to spend a certain amount of time recovering, and then get back to your life in New York in a healthier, happier condition. For many, this is the reality. However, for some people, an unexpected complication arises because of a surgical error that should never happen: The operating team misses something that should never be left in the body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, this serious medical oversight is more likely to affect you if you are having some form of abdominal surgery, and the objects most frequently left behind are sponges. These and other items are known as retained surgical bodies. 

You may have an RSB without experiencing any symptoms for years after a surgery, although infection or abscess often occur almost immediately. If your doctor identifies the RSB and removes it within a couple of weeks after the first surgery, the prognosis tends to be favorable. However, sponges may cause issues to develop over much longer periods of time. They can migrate through the abdominal cavity and become embedded in or puncture an organ, for example.

There are many factors that may contribute to the risk of an RSB. If you must undergo an emergency surgery, sponge and instrument counts may be difficult to complete accurately due to the necessarily rushed nature of the circumstances. A complication that arises during surgery may also affect the counting of objects and instruments used and removed from the area.

Because of the difficulties involved in accurate tallies, some hospitals have begun using tracking devices that perform the counts electronically. This information is not intended as legal or medical advice.

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