Did you undergo surgery only to discover that the surgical team left a foreign object inside your body? You likely have many questions about how this upsetting medical injury could affect your health and your future, as well as your legal options. What’s important to understand is that you have rights, and you could be entitled to monetary compensation for the harm you endured.
The Melonakos Law Firm wants to help you during this difficult time, just as our experienced medical malpractice lawyers have helped other injured people in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Contact our firm for a free case review today. We are ready to demand justice and fair compensation for your losses.
What Is a Retained Foreign Object?
A retained foreign object (RFO) is any item unintentionally left behind in a patient’s body during a surgical procedure, such as surgical sponges and small instruments. Depending on the circumstances, any of the following parties could be responsible for a foreign object left in the body after surgery:
- Surgeons – A surgeon might be liable for malpractice if an RFO injury occurs because they use a surgical device improperly or because they fail to communicate the presence of foreign objects to other surgical staff, for example.
- Operating room staff – Nurses, surgical technologists, and other surgical team members could also be responsible for an RFO if they fail to account for all instruments and equipment during and after a surgical procedure.
- Medical facilities – A hospital, doctor’s office, urgent care clinic, or another medical facility may be responsible for an RFO if it fails to establish or enforce proper RFO prevention protocols or to train and supervise staff properly.
- Manufacturers – If an RFO incident occurs because of a defect in a medical device, the manufacturer of the defective device may be responsible.
An RFO can cause serious health issues like internal bleeding, organ damage, and infections. If you know or suspect you have a retained foreign object in your body after surgery, you should seek medical attention immediately.
When Can You Sue for a Foreign Object Left in the Body?
After you get the medical care you need to address the foreign object left in your body, it’s time to start thinking about your legal options for seeking financial compensation. You can start by contacting attorneys who deal specifically with RFO lawsuits, as these cases are complex and subject to specific medical malpractice laws.
An RFO is a preventable error since the standard of care for any surgery is to avoid unintentionally leaving foreign objects behind in a patient’s body. You might have grounds for an RFO lawsuit if any of the following occurred:
- The surgical team failed to properly account for all instruments and foreign objects used during a procedure.
- The surgical team failed to properly remove a foreign object, such as a sponge or instrument, from a patient’s body after a procedure.
- A surgeon used a medical device improperly or unsafely, causing it to break and leave a fragment inside a patient.
- The surgeon failed to properly communicate with the rest of the surgical team about the presence of foreign objects.
- The surgical team failed to follow protocols for preventing RFOs, such as using imaging scans to confirm the absence of RFOs before closing up a patient.
- A medical provider failed to properly diagnose or treat an RFO after it occurred, leading to additional complications.
- A hospital or other medical facility failed to properly train or supervise its staff.
- A medical device manufacturer made a product that caused the RFO due to poor design, shoddy materials, improper assembly, or inadequate warnings.
What Types of Foreign Objects Could Be Left in the Body After Surgery?
Here are some of the most common types of foreign objects that medical providers leave behind in the body after surgery:
- Sponges – Surgical teams commonly use sponges during surgeries to control bleeding. Sponges are often left behind because they are difficult to detect on X-rays and not easily visible to the naked eye once they become soaked in blood.
- Surgical instruments – Surgeons also commonly leave small instruments like forceps, scissors, needle holders, and retractors in the body after surgery.
- Surgical needles – Surgical staff might leave behind needles used for sutures, anesthesia, or other applications if they fail to properly account for each one they used.
- Medical device fragments – Pieces of devices like catheters, guidewires, and stents might remain in patients’ bodies if they break apart during surgery.
- Implants – An intentional implant could lead to an RFO injury if a surgeon misplaces it or positions it incorrectly, potentially leading to future complications.
- Tissues – Pieces of tumors, tissues, or other body parts can also cause RFO-like symptoms if surgeons leave any behind after detaching them.
Symptoms of Foreign Objects Left in the Body After Surgery
RFO symptoms can vary considerably depending on the type and location of the object, as well as how long it has been in the body. Furthermore, these symptoms often take days or even weeks to appear.
A few examples of common RFO symptoms include:
- Localized or generalized pain
- Abnormal bleeding
- Swelling and inflammation
- Fever and chills
- Other signs of infection
- Difficulty urinating
- Bowel obstruction
- Difficulty swallowing
- Numbness or tingling
How Often Do Foreign Objects Get Left in the Body?
Studies cited by the Washington Post estimated that objects are left behind in about one out of every 5,500 to 7,000 procedures. More than 51 million surgeries are performed in the United States annually, which works out to about 9,000 RFO injuries per year.
The most common foreign objects in RFO cases are surgical sponges and instruments. Surgical staff most often leave foreign objects behind in patients’ abdomens, rear abdominal cavities, and pelvises.
Contact Our Greenville Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or someone close to you experienced preventable pain and health problems because a medical provider left a foreign object behind after surgery, reach out to The Melonakos Law Firm. We are ready to review your situation and provide the answers you need for free.