Common surgical errors could be prevented for just $10, but aren’t

Whether your surgery is considered elective or an emergency, you should receive the highest level of care. Yet, no one is perfect—not doctors, nor nurses or anyone else in the Pittsburgh operating room. There is always a chance of human error.

Arguably the most common surgical errors are foreign objects such as sponges or surgical instruments that are left inside the patient. This is referred to as URFO in the industry, which is an acronym for “unintended retention of foreign objects.” What is appalling is that many URFO cases involving sponges are preventable, yet approximately 85 percent of hospitals in the United States do not employ the technology to do so. Rather than relying on the surgical team to count the number of sponges—which can be hundreds—both inserted and removed during a single surgery, a wand can be used to detect specially tagged sponges. This typically adds less than $10 to the cost of the surgery. Sponges left in patients can cause tremendous pain and suffering, as it did for a woman who required a six hour surgery to remove a sponge left in her body after a C-section that caused her bowels to stop working.

Prospective patients are urged to research the safety record of hospitals and make an informed decision on whether or not to use that hospital. Insurance contracts and emergency situations can still dictate what hospital you are admitted to, however. If you have endured medical problems as a result of URFO, you may want to speak with an attorney. You could be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and loss of quality of life. Taking legal action also holds healthcare providers accountable for their mistakes and could prevent future surgical errors.

Source:, “The Nauseating Mistake Hospitals Make And The $10 Fix They Scrimp On,” Leah Binder, Oct. 24, 2013.