The Improper Use Of Medical Instruments

X-ray of instrument left inside patient during surgery

When a person is admitted to hospital for some sort of medical surgery, the last thing they expect is to be readmitted months down the line to remove a foreign object that was left inside of them during the original operation.

In the last month, we have heard of hundreds of such cases, when foreign objects have been carelessly left inside of patients. Such negligence can leave patients with excruciating pain and in some cases life threatening complications may occur. There are no possible excuses that can be used to protect the behaviour of the surgeons, doctors and nurses performing the surgery.

In the past four years, there has been 322 reported cases of foreign objects inside of patients after surgery. Such foreign objects have been reported to be as small as a swab and sometimes as big as medical instruments used to perform the surgery.

In the UK the NHS has snubbed such events as ‘never events’ this is because they believe standard procedures make such events impossible. However in total, there has been more than 750 patients put in danger because of such medical negligence.

Careless Actions

Some cases that have been reported are seen as more extreme than others. Although all cases and mistakes are completely unacceptable, the actions of some doctors and surgeons are much more careless than others.

When swabs are taken, they can easily be misplaced. There is no documentation of how many swabs are taken during an operation, meaning if one is misplaced – it will not always be recognised as missing. However, other mistakes that are made cannot be excused.

The use of micro size surgery instruments during an operation can cause complications to arise; this is because of the size of the instrument. Some micro instruments have the total length size of 11cm, meaning they can easily become misplaced or lost. However as there are records of the equipment brought into the operating theatre they should be alerted as missing almost immediately.

Smaller instruments can become missing much easier than bigger sized instruments. It was reported that one patient of the Alexandra Hospital, Redditch, Worcestershire had a pair of seven inch forceps left inside her body. There was a threat that the forceps could have damaged her bowel, meaning the injuries she may have experienced could have been life threatening. The forceps that were left inside of the patient’s body were not even noted as missing, meaning the patient was not informed by the hospital. It was not until the patient was experiencing unbearable pain, the option of a foreign object left inside her was investigated.

There are other careless actions by surgeons, doctors and nurses that have been investigated. There have been 214 cases of patients who have had surgery on the wrong part of the body. These mistakes are unacceptable and they are also completely avoidable. The mistakes are based on the carelessness of doctors and nurses who are not fully concentrating on the job at hand. 

Peter works on behalf of Mercian Surgical who supplies micro surgery instruments. He understands the importance of using medical instruments with great care.