Can I Sue If a Foreign Object Is Left Inside Me During Surgery?

surgical equipment assembled on a tray prior to a surgical procedure

A surgical negligence lawyer can investigate the periods of time prior to, during, and after a surgical procedure to determine whether a negligent surgical error caused you harm. One of the most egregious and serious examples of a surgical error is leaving an object inside the patient.

Surgical procedures involve many different types of equipment and medical supplies. Unfortunately, sometimes the negligence of a surgeon or other healthcare professional can result in a foreign object (also known as a “retained object” or a “retained body”) being left inside a patient’s body.

Retained foreign objects can lead to devastating complications. Please call Klein Lawyers at (604) 874-7171 today for a free consultation with a surgical negligence lawyer. We serve clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia.

Types of Retained Foreign Objects

A host of different objects used during surgery may be left inside the patient as a result of a surgical error. Examples include:

  • Surgical sponges
  • Towels
  • Scalpels, scissors, needles, and other sharp objects (“sharps”)
  • Tiny pieces that break off of devices used during surgery (such as catheters, laparoscopic components, etc.)
  • Clamps, retractors, and other instruments

Instruments and other equipment should be thoroughly accounted for prior to surgery. Before the incision is closed, these items should be counted again to ensure that nothing was left behind during the procedure.

Unfortunately, errors on the part of surgeons, nurses, and other personnel can result in a foreign object being unintentionally left inside of a patient. In Canada, these errors are alarmingly more common than they are in other developed nations. Over the course of just 2 years, the Canadian Institute for Health Information recorded more than 550 instances of foreign objects being left inside patients during surgery – a rate more than double that of other surveyed countries.

What Happens If a Surgeon Leaves Something Inside You?

Retention of a foreign object after surgery can wreak havoc on a patient’s body. Potential adverse effects of a foreign body include:

  • Post-operative infection: Harmful bacteria can gather in soft, porous equipment like sponges. This can lead to serious infections, abscesses, sepsis, and even death.
  • Internal bleeding: Retained foreign bodies can aggravate the surgical site and/or damage nearby tissues, resulting in internal bleeding.
  • Damage to internal organs: Surgical instruments left in the body may perforate organs, resulting in serious injury. 
  • Chronic pain: The damage caused by a retained foreign object can leave patients with severe, recurring pain.
  • Obstructions: Retained foreign objects can cause inflammation and/or blockage in the airway, digestive tract, and other areas of the body. This can adversely affect bodily functions such as the ability to breathe, digest food, etc.

Following surgery, it is important to be aware of symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, severe pain, and bleeding at the surgical site. These may be signs of other complications related to the surgery or a retained foreign object. No matter the case, it is crucial to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If you are able to, it is important to take accurate notes of what you are told by your healthcare providers about the cause of your symptoms.

Do I Have a Case?

Medical malpractice claims are extremely challenging. However, the fundamental question in these cases can be summarized as follows: Did a doctor, surgeon, or other healthcare provider deviate from the accepted standard of medical care?

It is difficult to argue that leaving a foreign object inside of a patient during surgery does not constitute medical negligence. As such, patients who have suffered harm and damages due to a retained foreign body generally have the right to file a lawsuit against the surgeon and other professionals involved in the surgery (such as nurses, surgical technicians, etc.).

Examples of medical negligence that can lead to foreign objects being left behind during surgery include:

  • Failure to put procedures and protocols in place to reduce the risk of leaving objects in patients
  • Failure to follow proper protocols to account for surgical equipment (e.g., pre- and post-operative checklists)
  • Operating while fatigued
  • Communication errors
  • Distractions in the operating room
  • Inadequate experience and/or training

The hospital or surgical centre where the procedure was performed may also be held liable for injuries and damages sustained as a result of a retained foreign body. A knowledgeable lawyer can identify all of your legal options.

Compensation for a Retained Foreign Object Injury

Surgical errors can turn a patient’s life upside down. A foreign object left in the body during surgery may result in permanent physical and psychological effects, as well as significant expense.

A surgical negligence lawyer can calculate all of the damages you have sustained as a result of a retained foreign body. You may be entitled to compensation for losses such as:

  • Medical expenses, including prescriptions, medical equipment such as a wheelchair or crutches, any treatment or tests not covered under the Medical Services Plan or your extended health benefits, etc.
  • The cost of travel for medical care, rehabilitation, etc.
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earning capacity, if you are unable to work
  • Cost of any future care that you may require

Sometimes a settlement may be reached that fairly compensates you for your losses. In other cases, however, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and, ultimately, go to trial.

This is especially true if liability for the surgical error is disputed or the surgeon’s counsel believes the case can be defended. You need a lawyer who is well-versed in medical malpractice litigation to file a lawsuit on your behalf and, if necessary, present your case in court. 

Surgical Object Left Inside of You? Get Help Today

Leaving an object inside of a patient during surgery is known in the healthcare industry as a “never event.” Never events are preventable errors in medical care that can have a devastating impact on a patient’s health and well-being.

Unfortunately, instances of retained foreign objects in surgical patients are far too common. Klein Lawyers can help you recover the compensation you deserve for injuries and damages sustained as a result of a surgeon leaving an object or instrument behind during surgery.

For more than 30 years, our firm has been a leader in a wide array of complex litigation. We understand the challenges of medical malpractice claims. Our lawyers and staff are committed to providing you with the support you need and fighting to recover maximum compensation on your behalf.

Contact Klein Lawyers today for a free case review. Our team will investigate the surgery, determine what errors may have occurred, and seek to hold the surgeon and any other parties accountable.