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Sponges, Surgical Tools Sometimes Left in Kids After Operation
Date:11/16/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- It rarely happens, but that's little comfort for those involved: Sometimes surgical instruments and sponges are left inside children undergoing surgery, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

Children suffering from such mishaps were not more likely to die, but the errors result in hospital stays that are more than twice as long and cost more than double that of the average stay, the researchers found.

And that's not even counting the psychological toll on families.

"Certainly, from a family's perspective, one event like this is too many," said lead researcher Dr. Fizan Abdullah, an assistant professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins. "Regardless of the data, we as a health care system have to be sensitive to these families," he said.

"The amazing thing is that when you look at the numbers, it translates to one event in every 5,000 surgeries," Abdullah added. "When there are hundreds of thousands of surgeries being performed on children across the U.S. every year, that's a lot of patients."

The report is published in the November issue of the Archives of Surgery.

For the study, Abdullah's team collected data on 1.9 million children under 18 who were hospitalized from 1988 to 2005. Of all these children, 413 had an instrument or sponge left inside them after surgery, the researchers found.

The mistakes occurred most often when the surgery involved opening the abdominal cavity, such as during a gynecologic procedure. Errors were less likely to occur during ear, nose, throat, heart and chest, orthopedic and spine surgeries, Abdullah's group notes.

Of the 17 patients who had a surgical tool left in them during a gynecologic procedure, 15 had undergone ovarian cyst or cancer-related procedures, one had had a cesarean section and one had undergone a procedure for pelvic scars.

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