Surgeons discover two surgical sponges left in woman's abdomen for 6 years

How many times is a surgical instrument left inside of a patient following a surgery?

Surgeons in Japan discovered two surgical sponges left in a woman’s abdomen, according to a recent report.

The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, notes the 42-year-old unnamed woman had the sponges inside her for at least six years.

“The patient recovered uneventfully from the surgery and had complete resolution of the lower abdominal bloating; she was discharged from the hospital five days after the surgery,” authors note in a statement.

READ MORE: Canadian surgeons more likely to leave sponges, knives inside patients

Doctors add the sponges were left behind during a cesarean section — the patient had two C-sections three years apart, the first one nine years ago, and a second one six years ago. But it is still unclear which surgery resulted in the mistake.

Speaking with CNN, author and general medicine physician at Chiba University Hospital, Dr. Takeshi Kondo, said the patient got both C-sections at the same clinic.

“Although she met the surgeon and told him the retained foreign bodies, the surgeon did not admit his mistake on the grounds of lack of clear proof,” Kondo told the news site.

READ MORE: ‘Flexible blade’ left inside Quebec woman’s abdomen after cancer surgery

In a CT scan of the woman’s body, doctors note the patient’s abs showed two pelvic masses with stringy structures (photo B). When the masses were removed from the body and cut in half, doctors found gauze sponges encapsulated by thick, fibrous walls (photo C), the report notes.

The New England Journal of Medicine ©2018.

“A diagnosis of gossypiboma was made,” authors conclude. “A gossypiboma refers to a foreign object, such as a surgical sponge, left behind in a body cavity after an operation.”

Researchers add health professionals should always use a surgical safety checklist to prevent these types of scenarios.

Effective communication, especially after the surgery, is crucial to ensure all sponges, tools and needles have been accounted for.

A 2017 report from The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found surgeons in Canada, in particular, were more likely to leave behind sponges and knives in patients compared to other countries.

According to the most recent data, the rate of a foreign object — such as a sponge, towel or scalpel — left in during a procedure happens 9.3 times for every 100,000 hospital discharges in Canada.

“The most common item left behind is a sponge,” Katerina Gapanenko of the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) told Global News in 2017. “Other items are fragments of a device or surgical tools.”

READ MORE: 1 in 18 Canadian hospital patients experience harm from preventable errors — study

CNN notes in some cases, (at least two-thirds), there were often serious consequences including infections or even death.

“In one case, a small sponge was left inside the brain of a patient that we studied, and the patient ended up having an infection and ultimately died,” practising surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told the site.

In June 2017, Quebec’s health minister blamed human error after a medical instrument was left behind in a woman’s abdomen during surgery.

The blade, which was 33 centimetres long, was forgotten after patient Sylvie Dube went in for a hysterectomy at a Montreal hospital.

— With files from Katie Dangerfield, CP

arti.patel@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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