Although the new trend in medicine is elective surgical procedures, many people still cringe at the thought of going under the knife. Do you really know what happens after you go under?
A daughter is currently suing the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland for leaving a surgical towel in her mother’s chest during surgery. The towel was found after she died years later during an autopsy.
How did the towel end up there? Even though you are sleeping during your surgical procedure, all your body functions still function. Your heart is still beating and your blood is still flowing. Naturally, when a doctor makes an incision, there is going to be bleeding. Doctors use sterile sponges and towels with strings attached to them to clean up excess blood loss and to clean the area they are working on. After the procedure, doctors and nurses are required to count each tool used to ensure nothing is left behind. If the alleged towel was in fact left behind, someone obviously didn’t do their job.
This isn’t the first time doctors have been accused of leaving things behind. According to Seattle reporter Carol Smith, back in 2001, University of Washington doctors were accused of leaving 5 surgical instruments inside patients after surgery in a five year period. Smith also reports UW stating that “The UW performs about 12,000 surgeries a year, and metal instruments are left in less than one out of every 10,000 cases, Larson said. “But we are aiming for zero defects.”
A study from The New England Journal of Medicine from January 13th, 2003:
Results Our study included 54 patients with a total of 61 retainedforeign bodies (of which 69 percent were sponges and 31 percentinstruments) and 235 control patients. Thirty-seven of the patientswith retained foreign bodies (69 percent) required re operation,and one died. Patients with retained foreign bodies were morelikely than controls to have had emergency surgery (33 percentvs. 7 percent, Pprocedure (34 percent vs. 9 percent, Pretained foreign bodies also had a higher mean body-mass indexand were less likely to have had counts of sponges and instrumentsperformed. In multivariate analysis, factors associated witha significantly increased risk of retention of a foreign bodywere emergency surgery (risk ratio, 8.8 [95 percent confidenceinterval, 2.4 to 31.9]), unplanned change in the operation (riskratio, 4.1 [95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 12.4]), andbody-mass index (risk ratio for each one-unit increment, 1.1[95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 1.2]).
Discovery Home & Health, a broadcast station in UK, Aired an episode on January 21st, 2007 entitled “When Surgical Tools Get Left Behind”
Unless it’s an extreme emergency, doctors are required to obtain a signed consent form authorizing the procedure. By signing the consent form, you are ultimately accepting the risks involved with the procedure. One of the risks is possibly having a surgical tool remain after your surgery. Most people realize something was left behind when they become severely ill after the surgery. What is left behind is a foreign body, and the body rejects it. Other times, there is no reaction, and what is left behind is not found until after death.
The next time you think about going under the knife, keep in mind that although doctors might be removing something, they might also be leaving something unwanted behind.