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Retained Surgical Instruments (RSI) can Potentially Destroy a Patient’s Health

Nov 14, 2015 | Doctor Errors

Surgical instruments get retained when a surgeon or a member of the surgical team forgets to remove a surgical device used inside the patient’s body during surgery. These devices can include sponges, scalpels, clamps, needles, and several other items used during the procedure.

Retained surgical instruments (RSI) pose a threat to the patient’s health and safety, and must be prevented with the necessary precautionary measures. To prevent the occurrence of RSI, the entire range of instruments being used during the procedure must be accounted for before and after the surgery.

Retained surgical instruments are a common occurrence in operating rooms today due to poor counting systems, tiredness and fatigue of the surgical member taking count after surgery, long and difficult procedures, or reasons as trivial as two sponges stuck together, leading to a miscount.

Types of RSI

Gossypiboma or the retention of sponges, pads or towels in a patient’s body is one of the most common types of retained surgical instrument errors. This condition is tricky to diagnose and is easily misunderstood as an abscess, especially if it is detected after a long time following the surgery.

Other commonly retained surgical instruments include:

· Needles

· Scalpels

· Scissors

· Scopes

· Forceps

· Gauze

· Tweezers

· Clamps

· Measuring devices

Complications from RSI

Retained surgical instruments can lead to several complications that are often fatal. Retained sponges that go unidentified for long, rot and develop pus and bacteria, causing ulceration and a toxic atmosphere in the bloodstream. Sharp surgical devices such as scissors or scalpels can puncture organs or blood vessels that eventually lead to death.

Removing a retained surgical instrument involves another surgery, which can be financially, physically, and mentally tormenting for the patient. Corrective surgeries may increase the health complications and reduce the immunity levels of the patient.

Preventing RSI

It is very critical that surgical team members act with caution while accounting for surgical instruments. An accurate count of sponges must be taken to double check that a sponge has not been retained. An account of every surgical instrument must be taken as suggested below:

1. Before the start of the procedure

2. Before the closure of the cavity being operated on

3. Before the closure of the wound begins

4. Before closure of skin

5. At the end of every procedure

Legal Liability for RSI

A surgeon may delegate the task of taking count of sponges and instruments to a nurse on the surgical team. But, if an RSI occurs, the surgeon is not excluded from the liability and responsibility towards the patient’s life. The healthcare provider is also liable to compensate for the damage extended.

Our New York City medical malpractice lawyers can support you in pursuing the best possible legal action. Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff have law offices situated in Astoria, Queens, New York City and two offices in Brooklyn. We can be reached using this number: 212 697 9280.

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