Surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals are trained to make sure that all surgical instruments are accounted for during surgery. However mistakes do occur and patients have had medical equipment left inside their bodies.
Formally referred to as ‘foreign objects left in the body’ these mistakes can result in serious harm to a patient, including perforated organs, bowel obstruction, abbess and serious infection including sepsis.
If mistakes by a surgical team left you or a loved one with medical equipment inside the body, you could be entitled to make a compensation claim. Described as a type of ‘Never Event’ (as they should never have occurred under any circumstances), leaving items in a patient can result in injury, infection and possible death.
If we believe that you have strong grounds for a surgical errors claim, including leaving medical equipment in your body, our experienced medical negligence solicitors will support you with our ‘No Win – No Fee‘ agreement. This means that you will not be charged any upfront legal costs in order to start your claim and if your claim is not successful, you will not incur any costs*.
What are the most common items left in a patient?
Items left behind, include:
- Sponges / swabs
- Suction tips
- Scalpels: Sharp metal knives are used for precision cutting.
- Suture Needles: Sharp objects are used to sew sutures or stitches.
- Syringe Needles – the ends of syringes can come off and remain in the patient.
- Retractors — This steel tool is used to hold incisions or wounds open, or to move organs or tissues to aid surgery.
- Clamps: Used to restrict or stop blood flow in veins and arteries.
- Forceps: These are metal tools used to grasp or hold parts of the body.
- Clips: Similar to clamps, used to temporarily hold veins, arteries and other tissues in place.
- Screws, Rods & Pins
Unfortunately surgical instruments left inside patients are often not detected unless the patient reports pain – or an infection is diagnosed.
Risks and complications of leaving equipment in the body
Leaving items in the body could result in:
- Pain, swelling
- Bowel obstruction
- Faecal/urine contamination
- Heart attack
- Infection as a result of retained surgical instruments (eg sepsis)
- Internal bleeding
- Internal organ damage (eg gastrointestinal perforation, kidney/liver damage, internal lacerations).
- Vascular injuries
- Possible death
NHS statistics: The most commonly left ‘foreign bodies’ inside patients (April 2021 – February 2022)
The NHS recorded 407 Never Events between April 2021 – February 2022, with 98 of these mistakes relating to medical equipment (foreign objects) left inside a patient.
The list below provides a breakdown of these 98 errors, with the majority of items relating to surgical and vaginal swabs being left in patients.
|Retained foreign object post procedure||98|
|Bolt from surgical forceps||1|
|Catheter used as part of a surgical procedure||1|
|Dental mouth prop||1|
|Dilatation balloon sheath||1|
|Guide wire – central line||6|
|Guide wire – chest drain||2|
|Guide wire – femoral line||2|
|Guide wire – PICC line||2|
|Guide wire – supra pubic catheter||1|
|Guide wire – vascath||3|
|Laparoscopic specimen bag||2|
|Part of a drill bit not identified as missing at the time of the procedure||3|
|Part of a guide wire – PICC line||1|
|Part of a k wire||1|
|Part of a pair of wire cutters||1|
|Part of a suture anchor introducer||1|
|Part of an intra uterine contraceptive device introducer||1|
|Part of uterine manipulator||1|
|Raney cranial clip||1|
|Screw from spinal instrumentation not identified as missing at the time of the procedure||1|
|Small piece of metal from knee instrumentation not identified at the time of the procedure||1|
|Trial shoulder prosthesis||1|
|Valve from breast prosthesis||1|
|Part of bladder instrumentation||1|
|Ribbon gauze not identified as missing at the time of the procedure||1|
Making a compensation claim for medial equipment left in after surgery
Items left in a patient will of course require further surgery to remove them. Compensation may be available to reflect your pain and injury and help support:
- Further surgery and the option for private treatment
- Medication or medical equipment needed after surgery
- Loss of income
- Managing physical pain and immobility
- Emotional recovery to manage trauma, stress and depression
If you believe you have a claim relating to a surgical error, including medical equipment being left in the body, speak with one of our claims specialists.
Devonshires Claims’ medical negligence experts have experience in dealing with surgical mistakes as well as other medical negligence claims. They will work with you to achieve the best possible outcome including justice for the harm you suffered, and compensation which adequately reflects the injury, pain, financial losses and the need for further medical treatment and care.
We provide victims of medical negligence with:
- A free no-obligation case evaluation
- A ‘No Win – No Fee’ agreement
- Access to our network of medical experts and specialist barristers
- Over 20 years’ experience
Client’s Vein Damaged When Cannula Inserted Negligently
Negligent treatment of a breast cancer patient. The client suffered pain and loss of function in their right hand and forearm as a consequence of an extravasation of a vesicant drug during their cancer treatment. (chemotherapy).
Estimated £50,000 recovered in damages – pre-Trial settlement.
Nephrostomy Tube Incorrectly Inserted in Kidney: £12K Compensation Awarded
Legal action following a failure by medical staff to recognise that a nephrostomy tube had been incorrectly placed in a pregnant woman leading to serious complications including further unnecessary surgery, sepsis and pneumonia.
£12,500 recovered in damages for the additional unnecessary surgery and scarring caused by the negligent failure to recognise that a nephrostomy tube had been incorrectly sited.
£2 million compensation for negligent hospital treatment resulting in air embolism and stroke
Claim following removal of a central line with the patient sat in a chair. This led to an air embolism and stroke which caused a somatoform pain disorder and permanent disability. This is one of the NHS’s 10 “never events.”
£2 million made up of compensation for the injury, past and future loss of earnings, care and equipment , treatment and the additional cost of suitable housing.