Retained surgical instruments still an issue, study finds

RSIs continue to pose a problem for patients of surgical procedures. Injuries connected to these events can include dangerous infections and the need for additional procedures to remove the item that was left behind and treat any additional injuries.

A study, recently published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, examines the continued occurrence of retained surgical items, or RSIs. An RSI is viewed as something that should never happen in the operating room. Surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals should not leave sponges, scalpels and needles inside of a patient after a surgical procedure is complete.

Although this seems like a simple expectation, researchers with the study found that approximately 1 in every 5,500 operations conducted in the United States results in an RSI event. Although this number may not seem concerning, a report by the Washington Post found that this translated to approximately two surgical error RSI incidents every year in a typical hospital.

RSI study: More on the findings

The researchers behind the study set out to analyze the various methods available to prevent RSI events from happening. According to the publication in the journal, current practices are not sufficient. These practices require physicians and staff to manually count the number of sponges and to use X-rays to double check that nothing was left behind. Instead, the scientists call for implementation of additional technology.

The researchers specifically reviewed the use of RF, or radiofrequency, technology. This uses a small chip placed within each sponge. Nurses and other medical professionals can use a wand to detect whether a sponge was left inside of a patient. Use of RF technology resulted in a 93 percent reduction in the incidents of RSIs.

RSI incidents: Risk factors and dangers

A similar study was published in the same journal. This study focused instead on factors that increased the risk of RSI events. According to this study, patients with a high body mass index, unexpected complications during the surgical procedure and undergoing a long procedure experienced an increased risk of suffering from an RSI.

Interestingly, the presence of a trainee was found to decrease the risk of an item being left behind. Although a reason for this correlation was not provided, it is possible that the presence of a resident or intern causes surgeons and their staff to make an extra effort to model proper surgical techniques.

An item that is left behind can cause a wide range of damage. A scalpel or other metal instrument could damage nearby tissue or organs. Sponges, the most common RSI, could harbor bacteria and lead to dangerous infections. These injuries can lead to an increased amount of time spent in the hospital, additional hospital visits and additional surgical procedures to remove the RSI.

RSI incidents: Holding responsible parties accountable

It is important for those who suffer from a RSI to know that compensation is likely available to help cover the cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation and potential lost wages due to missed work. Those who are the victims of these injuries are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced surgical error lawyer. This legal professional will review your case and work to advocate for your legal rights, better ensuring a more favorable outcome.

Keywords: Medical malpractice