I was a surgical nurse for many years so I know of quite a few cases of surgical instruments, lap sponges, raytec (x-ray detectable gauze) and even needles being left in the patient’s body after surgery. I have even been in cases where the only purpose of the surgery was to remove the foreign body that the surgeon had previously left in the patient. While these are interesting cases from a surgical perspective, they’re not too much fun for the patient. 

Every safety measure possible is taken to prevent these incidents. but with the large amount of instruments, needles, blades, laps and raytec used, it’s not surprising that these things occasionally happen. It’s usually by no fault of the surgical team that these occurrences take place, surgical teams are human too.  There are counts both before the procedure begins and twice while closing, to ensure that all the instruments, needles, blades and sponges are accounted for. The average amount of surgical instruments that are used during a basic surgery is 250.  For a larger procedure there are about 600 instruments used. Considering this, it’s not hard to understand how this occasionally occurs.  

Statistics show that the risk of having a surgical instrument left in your body after surgery is around 12.5% to .02%.

 Daryoush Mazarei,  was patient who, 2-years after abdominal surgery was still adamant that his surgeon had left an instrument in his body.  He never felt fully recovered post-surgery and constantly suffered from severe abdominal pain.  His doctor sent him for psychiatric therapy and insisted that he was fine.  When the patient continued to complain that there was a problem, his doctor finally listened and sent him for a CT scan. The scan revealed that the patient had a whole set of 10 inch retractors in his abdomen.   

Another case of this kind was a patient from Germany, who had undergone prostate surgery for cancer.  He complained of terrible pain after surgery and was not healing well.  Several weeks went by before the foreign bodies were located in the abdomen and he required two surgeries to remove a roll of bandage, a compress, a needle and part of a surgical mask….Pretty shocking.  Even as a surgical nurse, I find it hard to fathom how so many items could be left in the abdomen.