Doctors, hospitals face lawsuits over sponge left behind in surgery

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

June 25, 2014

A medical sponge left inside a California woman cost her several years of misery and misdiagnoses, and might end up costing a hospital, 3 physicians and 2 radiologists in a malpractice lawsuit, according to a report in Outpatient Surgery magazine.
 
The lawsuit stems from a 2007 incident, where a surgical team left a sponge inside a 63-yer-old woman during a hysterectomy. In the four years after surgery, the patient suffered nausea, constant thirst, vaginal bleeding, blurry vision and abdominal pain, and was variously diagnosed with severe constipation, gastrointestinal distress and an ovarian cyst, the report said.
 
It wasn’t until 2011 when her ovaries were removed that the sponge was discovered. Reports said the sponge had become "encased with scar tissue," requiring the removal of a large part of her intestine.
 
According to the report the hospital reported the incident in 2011, and was fined $25,000. Current malpractice fines are capped at $250,000 per patient, and a new law that would raise that cap to $1 million is currently being considered.