Medical Malpractice Claims for Surgical Tool Left Inside Patient

Surgical Tool Left Inside Patient

As horrifying as it sounds, surgical tools and sponges do sometimes get left inside patients after surgery. Medical malpractice claims involving a surgical tool left inside patient are a serious and often preventable form of medical error and should never occur in a well-managed surgical environment. Surgical tool or foreign body retention, also known as “retained surgical items” (RSIs) or “never events,” occurs when surgeons accidentally leave instruments, sponges, or other objects inside a patient’s body during a surgical procedure. While rare, retained surgical items are more common than one might expect. In the United States, about a dozen sponges and other surgical instruments are left inside patients’ bodies every day, affecting about 4,500 to 6,000 people per year, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a surgical team that left a surgical tool or other item inside your body, contact a local medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

Will a surgical tool left inside the body cause pain?

A surgical instrument left inside patient can cause all kinds of problems, including infection, pain, organ damage, and, in some cases, death. These complications can result in extended hospital stays, additional surgeries, and long-term health problems.

Four Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim For Surgical Instrument Left Inside the Body

  1. Standard of Care. Medical professionals have a duty to provide a certain standard of care, including keeping an accurate count of surgical instruments and materials used during a procedure. Hospitals also have a duty to have procedures in place to protect patients from medical errors. A failure in either of these ways may be considered a breach of that duty.
  2. Negligence. To pursue a medical malpractice claim, the patient must demonstrate that the surgical team or healthcare provider was negligent/breached their duty. Negligence typically involves proving that the surgical team deviated from the standard of care by failing to follow proper protocols – or that proper protocols were not in place – and leaving a foreign object in the patient’s body.
  3. Injury was caused by the breach in care. The third element of a medical malpractice claim is the ability to show that the injury was caused by the breach in care. For example, the plaintiff suffered an infection or organ damage because of the surgical item left inside of them.
  4. Damages. The plaintiff must show that the injuries caused damages that can be redressed through a medical malpractice settlement or jury award. Damages may include pain and suffering, lost wages from inability to work, medical bills, etc.

In addition to the four elements, proving a medical malpractice claim also requires substantial evidence. This may include medical records, X-rays, surgical count sheets, witness statements, and expert testimony to establish that negligence occurred. A medical malpractice lawyer has the skills to gather the required evidence and build relationships with medical experts.


Healthcare facilities can take steps to prevent retained surgical items, such as implementing surgical checklists, using radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology on surgical instruments, and promoting a culture of open communication within the surgical team.

If you or a loved one believe you have been a victim of surgical tool retention, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can evaluate your case, help you gather the necessary evidence, and guide you through the legal process to seek compensation for your injuries and losses. Medical malpractice claims have specific time limits, known as statutes of limitations, during which a lawsuit must be filed. Three years is the statute of limitations for most medical malpractice cases in Washington State but it’s important to consult with an attorney promptly if you suspect medical malpractice.

The Seattle Personal Injury Lawyers You Want on Your Side

The personal injury attorneys at Tinker Law Firm have been winning birth injury, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases for individuals and their loved ones in Seattle and across Washington State since 1974. We seek justice for injury victims who have been harmed by preventable medical errors, and the negligent or abusive actions of another. Our clients pay no fees or expenses to file a personal injury claim; our firm advances out-of-pocket expenses and is only reimbursed when we recover a settlement on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims in Washington State have a statute of limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time from the date of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and experienced injury attorneys.