Surgical never events are preventable occurrences for which there is universal professional medical agreement that they should never happen during surgery. One such event is known as “retained surgical foreign body” or RSFB. Retained surgical foreign body is essentially a fancy term for a forgotten sponge (gauze), medical device or instrument.
A Johns Hopkins malpractice report from December 2012 revealed surgeons in the United States leave a foreign object inside a patient’s body after an operation an estimated 39 times a week. Patients who have a retained surgical foreign body suffer from medical complications including severe infections, internal damage to surrounding tissue and organs, and the need for additional, often complicated, surgery to remove the object.
Portions of a medical implant device left behind after a surgical procedure caused severe, painful medical complications for a Michigan man.
Mr. G, had surgery to relieve his urinary incontinence (lack of bladder control) on June 24, 2008. During that surgery, urologist Dr. L inserted a medical implant device that included a pump, a reservoir, and tubing. Mr. G had multiple problems stemming from the implant including continued incontinence, infections, severe swelling, and extreme pain. Dr. L attempted to surgically correct the problems with the implant four times. After several unsuccessful attempts to alleviate the complications associated with the implant, Dr. L determined that completely removing the device was the best course of action. On January 13, 2011, Mr. G underwent surgery to remove the device entirely. Dr. L dictated a surgical note stating all the pieces of the implant were removed.
For months following the surgery to remove the device, Mr. G continued to experience infections and pain associated with the procedure. Dr. L dictated numerous notes to Mr. G’s primary care physician stating that all pieces of the device had been removed. On October 25, 2011, Mr. G was admitted to an outpatient medical center for a large scrotal hematoma (blood clot), under the care of Dr. L. That day, Dr. L made an incision into the affected area and drained a large amount of clotted blood and infectious material, as well as a piece of tubing from the implant, that was left behind. Dr. L sent a letter to Mr. G’s primary doctor, but made no mention of the piece of tubing that was removed.
Mr. G saw Dr. L again on December 5, 2011. At that visit, Dr. L noted a firm mass on Mr. G’s lower left groin area. An abdominal and pelvic CT scan revealed a mass in Mr. G’s groin. The impression was that the mass could be from a past hernia repair. Mr. G had not had a prior hernia repair. The mass was in fact the reservoir from the device that Dr. L failed to remove. Dr. L’s note from that follow up stated that the groin mass was healed. There was no mention of a retained reservoir.
Ongoing pain and complications from the retained reservoir prompted a referral to another surgeon. That surgeon reviewed the CT scan results and concluded that the mass was a retained foreign body. More than a year after the original surgery to remove the device, the second surgeon operated on Mr. G. The retained reservoir had caused internal inflammation and infection of the surrounding area (abscess), and was finally, properly removed.
Dr. L failed to properly remove the medical device on January 13, 2011, but continued to communicate with Mr. G’s primary doctor that all pieces were removed. Upon draining an infected area, Dr. L found portions of tubing that were left behind, but no mention of the tubing was communicated to Mr. G’s primary doctor. A CT scan revealed a mass that turned out to be another piece of the device that was not removed, but Dr. L did not address the mass. Dr. L’s treatment of his patient Mr. G was negligent, resulting in repeated and invasive treatments, diagnostic tests, and an additional surgery, all of which caused Mr. G a great deal of ongoing physical pain and mental anguish.
Jules Olsman and Donna MacKenzie of Olsman, Mueller, Wallace & MacKenzie have filed suit on behalf of Mr. G against Dr. L.