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Surgeons leaving sponges behind, part 2

For most patients, surgery is an in-and-out procedure. For other Georgia patients, though, it may carry hidden risks. One of those risks is retained surgical sponges, which was discussed in a previous blog post. When surgeons accidentally leave behind surgical sponges, patients can experience complications that sometimes have heavy consequences.


When first experiencing symptoms, patients often do not realize that a retained sponge is at fault. Sometimes they never find out. This was pointed out by Becker's Healthcare, which says that some surgeons operating on patients with symptoms of a retained item often conceal the true cause of a patient's discomfort. Symptoms also vary from case to case, making it hard for doctors to tell if a sponge has been retained or if a patient has developed a new condition. Sponges have been mistaken for tumors in X-rays.


Patients with retained sponges often report digestive problems and pain, and many develop infections. According to USA Today, the problems caused by retained sponges can be life-long. Some patients require surgery to reroute parts of their intestines, while others have sections removed. Sometimes medication is required for a patient’s digestive track to work properly. In some cases, retained sponges may cut through the large intestine and cause infections. Medically induced comas may be necessary in extreme cases.


Despite the long-lasting effects of a retained sponge, hospitals are more concerned with other forms of medical errors, such as infection control. Because of this, many U.S. hospitals have not put emphasis on preventing further incidents. Nonprofits have encouraged that stricter measures be adopted to curb retained sponges and other items. However, retained sponges are seen as a minor issue compared to a hospital’s other concerns.

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