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An easy fix for a dangerous mistake

North Carolina residents anticipating surgery might not be aware of a painful error that occurs at varying rates in the nation's hospitals. During some procedures, sponges, retractors, needles and other surgical tools are left inside patients on the operating table. This error can turn an otherwise successful surgery into a dangerous case of medical malpractice. Objects left in patients are sometimes hard to detect, but they can become infected, move around inside patients and require additional surgeries to remove.

A recent report states that leaving foreign objects in patients is a highly preventable error. The report, which was issued by the Joint Commission, describes the problem in detail and suggests that hospitals should improve counting systems and surgical team communication. A few hospitals, however, are already using relatively inexpensive radio frequency technology to tag all surgical tools and sponges, and this technology allows surgical staff to find retained objects by passing a wand over the patient at the end of the operation.

It is estimated that the use of RFID technology increases the cost of an operation by only $10. Since the cost of compensating and caring for patients who have suffered from retained objects is quite high, it is surprising that all hospitals do not use RFID tagging. Peer-reviewed studies have shown that such technology is effective in preventing this medical error and saving patients from a great deal of pain and injury.

One study suggests that more hospitals will adopt this effective and cost-saving technology if they are pressured to do so. In the meantime, those who have suffered complications due to such mistakes during surgery may wish to seek compensation, and an attorney who works with victims of medical malpractice may provide guidance.

Source: Forbes, "The Nauseating Mistake Hospitals Make And The $10 Fix They Scrimp On", Leah Binder, October 24, 2013

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