Surgeon Left 16 Items In Body: What Were They?

By Melissa Siegel on January 16, 2013 3:25 PM EST

Surgery
Each year, around 4,000 objects are left behind during surgeries in the US, per the New York Times. (Photo: Flickr.com/Army Medicine)

Dirk Schroeder's family is suing a German hospital after a surgeon left 16 items in his body during a procedure.

According to Ninemsn, the 74-year-old man underwent a routine surgery in 2009 to help treat his prostate cancer. Schroeder's pain persisted, and three months later, a nurse noticed a gauze pad coming out of one of the man's wounds.

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Dirk Schroeder thus returned to the hospital, where doctors soon discovered that 16 different items had been left in his body. The items, which included a needle, swabs, a roll of bandage, a six-inch long compress, and even part of a surgical mask, were eventually removed in two separate procedures.

Schroeder died last year of cancer, and his family is now suing the unidentified hospital for $121,000. The hospital, meanwhile, is arguing that the 16 items in question actually entered the man's body after the surgery.

"I hope the hospital will settle but otherwise the family are prepared to go all the way and sue in court," the family's lawyer, Annette Corinth, said, per the Daily Mail. "The family of the deceased spent lots of money on care, medicines and reconstruction of their home to look after this man."

"There has been gross negligence here which most probably had led to complications and possibly a quicker death."

Sadly, this is not the only time a surgeon has left behind objects in a patient's body. The New York Times wrote a story last year detailed numerous Americans who underwent a similar trauma.

Sophia Savage, for instance, discovered that a surgical sponge had been left in her stomach five years after undergoing a procedure in that area. She won $2.5 million in damages after suing the hospital.

The article estimates that over 4,000 cases occur in America each year of surgeons leaving behind objects sin their patients. Most of them are gauzelike sponges, which can be used during the operation to control bleeding.

These sponges are often hard to spot inside a patient's body, especially when they are covered in blood. But even when the doctors take extra care to count the gauze after the procedure, there may still be a sponge left behind. The Times article notes that in four out of the five cases in which a sponge was left in a body, the surgeons had determined that all of the used gauzes were accounted for.

Some new technology has emerged to try to limit the amount of items left behind during surgical procedures. A study at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine specifically tracked the effectiveness of a radio-frequency system that can be used to alert doctors if a sponge remains inside a body after surgery. The study helped detect 23 sponges left behind over an 11-month period.

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