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Surgical errors might not be discovered for years

Every day, numerous people around the country and here in Delaware undergo operations. When surgical errors occur, they are often discovered in the days and weeks following the procedure. However, in some cases, it could be years before a mistake is discovered.

One mistake that many people fear is that the surgeon will leave a surgical instrument in the body. For instance, a cotton surgical sponge could be left behind if the surgical team fails to make a proper count before, during and after the procedure. This is the most common foreign body that is left in a patient after surgery, but on occasion, a surgical instrument is left behind.

A 36-year-old woman was diagnosed as having a cyst in her liver and underwent an operation to have it removed. The operation appeared to be a success, but three years later, she discovered that a mistake was made. It was then that she passed a portion of a surgical instrument that had made its way from her abdominal cavity into her colon. Imaging showed that the woman had the remainder of a pair of surgical forceps in her abdomen, which were removed via another surgical procedure. The material that she had passed was confirmed to be part of that instrument.

This woman was fortunate considering the potential damage the instrument could have caused, but other people are not so lucky. Serious, permanent or fatal injuries can result from these types of surgical errors. As many Delaware residents would do, the woman filed a lawsuit against the doctor that performed the initial procedure and the hospital where it took place. Any restitution received as a result of successfully establishing that medical malpractice occurred could help with the additional expenses and other damages sustained because of the error.

Source:, "A case of surgical instrument left in the abdomen and taken out of the transverse colon", Accessed on Sept. 9, 2016

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