When you must undergo a surgical procedure at an Ohio medical facility, you hope for the most favorable results. Unfortunately, some recovering patients bring home more than after-care instructions and a medication prescription. Sometimes, medical professionals leave surgical instruments or items inside patients’ bodies.

CNN explores the common reasons that surgical sponges end up inside patients. Learn more about this form of medical malpractice to determine if you could have a legal case.

“Retained surgical items”

Known as “retained surgical items,” a 2003 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that most of the items left inside patients are sponges, but some discover various surgical instruments inside them, too. If left for long enough inside the human body, foreign objects can cause sepsis, localized pain, bloating and discomfort. Sometimes, retained surgical items prove fatal.

Reducing human error

How can health care facilities better ensure that they do not leave items inside patients? One published policy is to count surgical instruments and sponges at least five times throughout a surgery, including at the start of the procedure, after introducing new items into the operation and when the medical team closes the skin. Some towels and sponges have special bar codes on them that make it easy to keep count of them.

Causes of items left behind inside patients include human error and distraction. A member of the surgical team may take a phone call or focus more on music than the patient. Sometimes, surgery requires an unplanned change, which may contribute to the possibility of leaving a sponge or instrument inside the patient. Another scenario that increases risk is when a patient requires emergency surgery.