Glance: Surgical Slips Rare but Costly

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A lawyer in Germany claims surgeons left up to 16 objects in her client's body after an operation for prostate cancer. She is seeking €80,000 ($106,216) plus costs for the family of the patient, who has since died. Surgical slips such as these are rare, but with millions of operations performed worldwide each year mistakes do sometimes occur.

According to Loyola University in Chicago, citing medical studies, some 1,500 patients in the United States have surgical objects accidentally left inside them after surgery each year. Most of the objects are sponges used to control patient bleeding during long operations. They can lead to pain, infections and other medical complications.

Such cases have prompted doctors to coin the term "retained surgical items" and draw up guidelines to prevent them occurring. These include accounting for all items after surgery — such as with the help of RFID chips — and using equipment containing special strips that show up clearly in x-rays.

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