Foreign Objects Left In Patients After Surgery Getting Worse In New York!


The fear of undergoing surgery is enough for any of to become anxious. But the thought of harboring a foreign object left in our bodies mistakenly after the surgery is downright horrifying. Recently released statistics by the Niagara Health Quality Coalition (“NHQC”) computed that there were 95 cases of foreign objects in New York hospitals during 2009. That is 11 more instances of foreign objects than the previous year!

A foreign object is essentially something that the surgical team did not intend to deposit in the patient’s body, but it was mistakenly left inside of the patient’s body at the conclusion of the surgery. While this may seem unbelievable that today-with such technological, medical, and training advancements-that surgical teams still leave foreign objects in patients it really shouldn’t. Some surgeries can involve hundreds of medical sponges to stop bleeding and help keep the surgeon’s “workspace” as clear as possible. Coupled with the myriad of instruments used in a procedure, it is actually a surprise it doesn’t happen more often. Actually, the current estimate is that foreign objects are left behind in 1 out of every 10,000 surgeries. Moreover, a foreign object left inside of a patient’s body following a surgery is a clear textbook case of medical malpractice. This is a very serious situation, and there are many documented cases of foreign objects left in patients that have resulted in death! In addition to the obvious physical problems that arise, mental anguish can also occur, especially if a second surgery is needed to rectify the mistake.

Amongst Capital Region hospitals, there were four cases of foreign objects at Albany Medical Center. The first involved a guide wire left in during a dialysis catheter placement, which was subsequently discovered in a chest X-ray and was immediately removed. Second, a fetal scalp probe’s wire was accidently severed in an emergency Caesarean section. Again, a subsequent X-ray was performed revealing the wire, which was also removed. Third, a small, medical clip (Yasargil clip) was left in a patient during a major surgery. The team knew that the clip was left behind, tried to find it, but could not locate it during the surgery. Last, a piece of plastic sheeting about the size of a Post-it note was left inside of a patient’s throat. The sheet was discovered and removed when the patient was rushed to the emergency room with an infection.

St. Peter’s and Ellis Hospital also each had a foreign object case. At St. Peter’s, it was more of a definitional incident of a foreign object. A sponge had gone missing during a surgery and the team ordered an X-ray to locate it, but before the X-ray could be performed, the tissue had to be closed which made the missing sponge technically a foreign object. It was located in the X-ray, and immediately removed before the patient left the hospital. At Ellis Hospital, a small tube was left after a laparoscopic surgery which was subsequently removed with another laparoscopic surgery.

With the help of organizations such as NHQC publishing such research, has gotten the hospitals to reflect on their procedures. Albany Med and Ellis have undertaken changes and review of their surgical procedures to decrease the rate of foreign objects left behind and to combat this problem in New York, which has only increased since the last report.

Do you know anyone who had a foreign object left in them? Please contact me! I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at . If you are unsure, you are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at