What is a retained swab?

If you have had surgery, it is going to take a little time to recover. However, if you are not recovering as you should, or have post-operative complications, you may be left wondering whether something went wrong during the operation.

Complications can occur when surgical items are left inside you during the operation. This FAQ examines what happens when a swab is left inside someone, the possible symptoms, and what can be done about the situation.

What is a retained swab?

A retained swab is a surgical swab used during an operation which, for some reason, has been left inside the patient. When this happens it is known as a ‘never event’; it is so serious it should never have happened.

Despite this, never events involving retained surgical items do happen, especially as a consequence of procedures carried out on the vagina, pelvis, or abdomen.

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