You might be wondering how it’s possible for a doctor to leave a surgical instrument inside your body and not realize it. Well, the reality is that the surgeon is focused on identifying and fixing your problem. It is the job of either the circulating nurse or the scrub nurse to keep track and count all instruments.
Most hospitals have procedures to try and insure an accurate instrument count. Unfortunately, the count is not always correct. Here’s a perfect example. I did a deposition (a question and answer session) of a nurse who was involved in a patient’s surgery. The patient had abdominal surgery and three days after surgery, while still in the hospital complained of tremendous belly pain. An x-ray revealed the culprit; a surgical clamp was left inside.
The circulating nurse claimed that the surgical instrument count was correct and all instruments were accounted for. I couldn’t wait to ask her the key question in the case. It was the fourth question I asked her. It took all of 35 seconds to get to the heart of the case.
Q: You participated in this patient’s surgery?
Q: You counted all instruments following the surgery?
Q: All instruments were accounted for?
Q: How then do you explain how a surgical clamp was found inside the patient on post-op day #3?
She had no explanation. “I can’t explain it.”
I asked her ten more minutes of questions, then called it a day, satisfied I had exactly what I needed.
The Post reported that Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn is using a new device to prevent this type of incident from happening. It’s a large round wand that doctors and nurses pass over the patient’s body before finishing surgery. It detects small chips that are attached to surgical instruments, sponges and lap pads. It’s a lot like the electronic tags we see in the stores. If you walk out through the metal detector without paying, the alarm goes off. Same concept here, just a bit more sterile and smaller.
Hopefully, this technology will prevent incidents like the 292 reported by the Department of Health.
To learn more about foreign objects and how much time you have to file a lawsuit in New York for retained surgical objects, click here.
If you have questions about surgical errors, I encourage you to call me at 516-487-8207 or by email at [email protected]. I welcome your call.