A Back Up Plan to Avoid RSIs

Medical Malpractice in AtlantaThe occurrence of retained surgical instruments (RSIs) or unintended retention of foreign objects (URFOs), while not extremely common, is more frequent than one might imagine. Items left inside a patient after surgery, including instruments and other surgical tools or materials, can cause infection, medical complications, pain and discomfort, and may even lead to death.

Many hospitals and medical professionals follow strict procedures and policies in order to avoid the potential for RSIs. Even so, the Journal of American College Surgeons reported that an estimated 1 in 5,500 surgeries results in an RSI. While a variety of items have been left behind, the most common is a surgical sponge. These sponges, used to soak up blood during surgery, can be difficult to spot as they become camouflaged blood soaked objects. Often tucked into hard-to-see areas within the body, it is reported that sponges, surgical instruments and other items are most commonly left in the abdomen, thoracic cavity, vagina, and pelvis.

The traditional method used to prevent RSIs involved taking a manual count of all items used during surgery, including surgical sponges. Nurses compared a count before and after a procedure for an inventory of sponges and other surgical instruments. While this provided some accountability, there was still room for human error. With technological advances, however, surgical sponges are now fitted with a tiny chip that gives off a radio frequency. Surgical teams are then able to use a wand or a mat at the end of a procedure to verify if whether a surgical sponge has been left inside the patient.

This technology advancement has shown to significantly decrease the amount of surgical sponges left behind. As a result, hospitals are able to avoid costly legal ramifications, hazardous side effects, and the emotional distress that occurs when an RSI takes place. Find out more about RSIs with this CBS news report, or through the findings of the Joint Commission. Also, before going in for elective surgery ask what methods will be used in order to prevent the occurrence of an RSI.

While the frequency of these surgical mistakes is hopefully decreasing, it is important to know your legal rights. The medical malpractice and negligence attorneys at Brownstein & Nguyen have over 20 years of experience handling cases in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Contact our legal offices today for a free case evaluation.