Surgical Objects Accidentally Left Inside More Than 1,000 Patients Every Year

It's a medical mistake that happens more often than you would think. Every year in the United States about 1,500 people are wheeled out of the operating room with a surgical object accidentally left inside of them, according to medical studies.

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The most common objects left behind are sponges, which can lead complications including pain, infection, bowel obstructions, longer hospital stays, additional surgeries and, in rare cases, death.

"When there is significant bleeding and a sponge is placed in a patient, it can sometimes look indistinguishable from the tissue around it," said Dr. Steven DeJong, vice chair, department of surgery, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, in a news release.

"Unintentional retained sponges and instruments is a devastating complication for patients and is a national problem affecting every hospital in the country that performs invasive and surgical procedures."

To prevent such mistakes from happening, Loyola University Medical Center is becoming one of the first hospitals in the country to use sponges outfitted with bar codes. The new system was brought to Loyola through the efforts of the hospital’s operating room nurses.