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Thousands of Patients Leave Hospital With Items Left in Their Bodies Post-Surgery

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Did you know that the medical community has a term for events that are so preventable that they should never occur? Aptly named, they are called "never events" and include events so egregious, yet so preventable like leaving behind medical sponges in a patient's body post-surgery. Unfortunately, although these events should "never" happen, they do–about 12 times a day according to some sources.

Erica Parks is one patient who suffered from a "never event". After undergoing a routine C-section, Erica knew something wasn't right with her belly. Over the next month, her belly became so bloated that it looked like she was pregnant again and she rushed into the ER to see what was wrong. X-rays revealed that a medical sponge the size of a washcloth was left in Erica's stomach. Doctors performed a six-hour surgery on Erica to remove the infected mass and she needed an additional three weeks in the hospital to heal and to clear the infection.

Some are pushing doctors to seriously consider simple, new technology that would essentially eliminate the problem of "never events", which leave thousands of patients with unwanted items in their bodies and can lead to months or years of problems without being discovered. Estimates suggest that between 4,500 and 6,000 patients suffer a "never event", but less than 15% of U.S. hospitals refuse to use simple electronic tracking devices on medical sponges that would prevent such an error.

What is so shocking is that the medical technology is cheap compared to the cost of the occurence of "never events". It costs hospitals an estimated $60,000 per hospitalization for problems related to items left in the body post-surgery. The cost of using a tracking device on a medical sponge is approximately $8-12 per surgery. You can read more about the problem of "never events" and the solutions to this problem that medical professionals are apparently not ready to employ.