Medical Equipment / Objects Left Inside Patients After Surgery Claims

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*

Contact us today for your free no-obligation case evaluation. Call us on 0333 900 8787, email or complete our online form.

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.
  • Scissors 
  • 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
  • Nausea
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Faecal/urine contamination
  • Fistulas
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • 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 procedure98
Bolt from surgical forceps1
Catheter used as part of a surgical procedure1
Dental mouth prop1
Dilatation balloon sheath1
Guide wire – central line6
Guide wire – chest drain2
Guide wire – femoral line2
Guide wire – PICC line2
Guide wire – supra pubic catheter1
Guide wire – vascath3
K wire1
Laparoscopic specimen bag2
Ophthalmic port1
Ophthalmic trocar1
Part of a drill bit not identified as missing at the time of the procedure3
Part of a guide wire – PICC line1
Part of a k wire1
Part of a pair of wire cutters1
Part of a suture anchor introducer1
Part of an intra uterine contraceptive device introducer1
Part of uterine manipulator1
Raney cranial clip1
Scalpel blade1
Screw from spinal instrumentation not identified as missing at the time of the procedure1
Small piece of metal from knee instrumentation not identified at the time of the procedure1
Surgical swab21
Throat pack1
Trial shoulder prosthesis1
Vaginal swab32
Valve from breast prosthesis1
Bite block1
Part of bladder instrumentation1
Ribbon gauze not identified as missing at the time of the procedure1

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
  • Rehabilitation
  • 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
  • ‘No Win – No Fee’ agreement
  • Access to our network of medical experts and specialist barristers
  • Over 20 years’ experience

Contact us today to start your free case evaluation. Call us on 0333 900 8787, email or complete our online form.

Client Stories

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.

What our clients say:
I would like to thank Devonshire Claims, for the prompt and thoughtful, handling of my claim. I received great customer service, there was always someone at the end of the phone, to explain, details to me, answer questions, and keep me updated as to what was happening and when I was very happy with the service, and I highly recommend. - L.W.
Devonshires solicitors are extremely good. Sandra Wheeler who helped me a lot is very kind; she always gave me good advice. A few times during the case, when I was nervous or disappointed, she encouraged me to go ahead. This case was 'no win no fee*', so they didn't charge me a single penny. Thank you to the Devonshires' team. I will definitely recommend you in the future if anyone needs a solicitor because your team is so helpful and do their job very well. - Mrs Kaur
My experience of Devonshires and in Particular our solicitor dealing with our claim Jeanette Van- Cauter was very professional and kept us informed all through the process. - J.B.

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