Although less well known than a surgery performed at the a€?wrong sitea€?, retained surgical instruments is actually more common.
Retained surgical instruments (needles, scalpels, clamps , sponges, etc ) occurs due to poor counting systems, fatigue of one or more members of the surgical team, difficult operations, or sponges a€?sticking togethera€?.
Sponges should be counted on all procedures in which the possibility exists that a sponge could be retained. There are many dangers as a retained surgical instrument can results in infections or a fibrinous response which may require another surgery to remove the retained surgical instrument. Gossypiboma is the name given to a retained surgical sponge, pad, or towel (gossypium (Latin), cotton; + plboma (Swahili), place of concealment).
The hospital where the surgery took place may have legal responsibility as well since it is often the case that operating room nurses employed by them must undertake sponge and needle counts and it may be their error which produces the mistake even more directly than the surgeon.
What are the legal ramifications of a retained surgical sponge or retained surgical instrument? Medical malpractice sometimes involves unique provisions of the law and procedure further complicated by the medical-legal issues present. US Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Chapter 22. Important: Please do not consider anything contained on this website legal (or medical) advice to you for your particular case. The Patient Safety Culture survey asks for your opinions about patient safety issues, medical errors, and event reporting. This year we are offering a survey specific to hospital staff (“Hospital survey”) and a new survey that is specific to ambulatory care (“Medical Office survey”).
Or, if you've received an email edition recently, use the "update your preferences" link at the bottom of the email or contact us to subscribe. These reports were analyzed to classify the events by node, related processes, possible causes, and contributing factors and to detect trends and noteworthy cases.
Retained surgical instruments simply means that the surgeon forgot to remove needles, scalpels, clamps , sponges, etc after the completion of the surgery. The retained surgical instrument can cause local or systemic symptoms that can lead to major illness or death.
One study reported that 55% of retained surgical sponges were found after abdominal surgery and 16% occur after vaginal delivery. It occurs when a surgical team fails to remove all surgical sponges, pads or towels from a patient.
In the case of a retained surgical sponge or instrument, there is such a strong inference of negligence that it is considered below the standard of care for surgery. As a patient you want and need quality medical care and treatment, particularly for those injuries which are serious or may become so in the absence thereof. Even where liability seems reasonably clear insurance companies obligated to pay damages on behalf of those they insure often vigorously defend such claims. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference.
An “event” is defined as any type of error, mistake, incident, accident, or deviation, regardless of whether or not it results in patient harm. Help us keep track of all of Penn Medicine's community outreach activities by filling out the Penn Medicine CAREs reporting form.
This is supposed to be avoided by counting all instruments used during surgery and being sure they are all accounted for at the completion of surgery.
The risk of a retained surgical instrument or sponge increases in emergency situation, with unplanned changes in procedures or in obese patients.
As a injured party seeking financial compensation along with a measure of justice, the importance of medical documentation is the primary tool which your lawyer may use to accomplish this.
As a result, there are some situations where presettlement funding may be appropriate to provide a vital lifeline in order to obtain important related medical care or to stay financially afloat.
This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Anti-infectives, opioids, and anticoagulants were the most common types of medications associated with wrong-patient events.
A 2008 study indicated that 1 in 8 surgical cases involves an intraoperative discrepancy in the count of surgical sponges or instruments resulting in a retained sponge and instrument (RSI).
While multiple factors may have contributed to each event, the most common were two patients being prescribed the same medication, improper verification of patient identification, and similar room numbers. Another 2008 study indicates they occur a€?more frequently than expected from literaturea€?. Important risk reduction strategies include ensuring proper storage of medications and patient-specific documents, utilizing healthcare technology fully, limiting verbal orders, and improving patient verification throughout the medication-use process.Introduction Patient misidentification has been a long-standing problem that has permeated all aspects of healthcare and led to errors ranging from wrong-site surgeries to discharging infants to the wrong families to ordering incompatible blood. Attorneys admitted in other jurisdictions with a particular interest in this area of law may be asked to review your potential case and respond to you directly. Outpatient care is significantly more common, arguably more complex and varied, and much less structured and regulated. So, it seems prudent to ask, are medical errors equally serious and perhaps more prevalent in family practice?
All fields of the event reports, including harm score and care area, were self-reported, but the medication name fields were adjusted during analysis if information on the medication involved in the error had been available in the event description.
If so, can we do something to avoid them?To begin with, let us consider what are common errors in family practice.
Most of us may think of the patient whose breast lump was not diagnosed or the patient prescribed the wrong medication. Various trends were quantified using descriptive statistics.Aggregate AnalysisDuring the aforementioned reporting period, the Authority received 826 distinct medication error event reports from Pennsylvania healthcare facilities that were categorized as wrong-patient events. What about the abnormal laboratory result that was misfiled or the cardiologist consultation recommending a medication change that was not communicated to the family physician? However, based on the event descriptions, 13 reports (1.6% of total reports) did not actually involve wrong-patient errors and were excluded from the analysis. What about the patient with CHF who was not prescribed an ACE inhibitor or the patient who was not on a beta-blocker following his MI?
The remaining 813 reports represent errors that occurred across the continuum of the medication-use process (from prescribing to administration and monitoring of medications), involved a wide range of medications, and occurred on various patient care units and departments.The errors reported occurred during all nodes of the medication-use process (see Figure).
About the same time the IOM report was released, 42 family physicians in the AAFP’s National Network for Family Practice and Primary Care Research were busy identifying mistakes in their own practices. Almost 13% (n = 104) of reports listed anti-infective medications as being involved in the event. Of the reports involving a known single medication, almost 30% (n = 169) were associated with high-alert medications.
These included lapses in patient follow-up, misfiling or never documenting receipt of laboratory work or consultations, and miscommunication among facilities, physicians and patients. Physician offices accounted for more than 70 percent of the medical errors, but lack of coordination among physician offices and hospitals, emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities and home health were also cited.

The third most common care area noted in the reports was the emergency department (9.8%, n = 80). Almost half of these reports of errors were associated with adverse consequences, including hospital admission and even death.Today, much work is underway to classify errors in primary care. A Primary Care International Study on Medical Errors is being conducted by family doctors in the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand through the Linnaeus collaboration chaired by Dovey.
It is unclear, however, whether the locations noted in the event reports represent where the errors originated or where the errors were discovered.Despite the variety of medication errors involving the wrong patient, few resulted in patient harm.
This study will help develop and validate a classification system that we can use to collect, categorize and analyze errors in family practice and primary care.
In addition, the AAFP has received a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to establish a Patient Safety Center.
The center has developed a computerized, Web-based error-reporting system that meets federal confidentiality standards.
Medication procurement consists of a nurse obtaining the wrong medication from various medication storage areas (see Table 1). We are poised to put it into use, although its final configuration may await legislation enacted to protect any data collected from discovery.The ability to report and learn from errors without being sued is a major concern. For example, multiple reports described a nurse selecting the wrong patient from the automated dispensing cabinet (ADC) screen when retrieving medications. There may be reason to be hopeful, as legislation was recently introduced to protect physicians who report errors. Monitoring is defined as patient assessment activities that occur before or after administration of medications.
The fate of such legislation will ultimately determine whether this and other error-reporting systems can be developed.Eliminating errorsThe ultimate purpose of analyzing errors is to learn how to avoid them by developing administrative systems in our office that prompt us to follow up and document that our patients are receiving state-of-the-art care. Medication Storage Areas Involved in Events Occurring  during the Medication Procurement Process, as Reported to the  Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, July 2011 to December 2011Many factors, and often more than one factor per event, contributed to patients receiving other patients’ medications during actual medication administration.
For example, where I work, in AvMed Health Plan, a large Florida-based, nonprofit health system, we have elaborate chronic care databases and programs to help ensure that our family physicians can provide and document the best available care to their patients. Most commonly, two patients were prescribed the same medication, and one received the medication dose intended for the other (14.3%, n = 41). The second most prevalent contributing factor was inadequate identification (ID) check (12.9%, n = 37), in which the event descriptions specifically mention failure to use two patient identifiers and to confirm identity with patient ID bracelets. In four reports (1.4%), the nurse used the patient’s or family’s acknowledgment of the name, which was incorrect, to verify identity.
These are scales that transmit changes in weight and symptoms to the family physician’s office. This early warning system has helped institute treatment that reduced hospitalizations by over 80 percent.Today, aided by relatively inexpensive electronic medical records (EMRs), family physicians are designing their own administrative systems to avoid errors and document the quality care they provide. The nurse either confused the patient with a roommate or administered the medication to the wrong patient due to similar room numbers. I would submit that documenting such quality outcomes is the result of our quest to avoid errors and to demonstrate objectively our value as family doctors.
The nurse did not check the patient’s [ID] bracelet, and the patient received another patient’s morning medications.The patient was in the hall, and the nurse called the name of a patient. We would like to share in the future how readers are tracking down and eliminating sources of error and, in the process, both improving and documenting their value as family doctors.
The patient responded “Yes.” The nurse looked at a picture and then asked the patient where her wristband was since it was not on the patient. In the meantime, ask yourself, did anything happen in your own practice that should not have happened and that you don’t want to have happen again?
The patient responded, “I took it off a couple days ago.” The nurse looked at the patient’s picture and asked again, “Are you this patient?” The patient responded “Yes” and took the medications without questioning them. Later, the nurse realized that the two patients look very much alike.The nurse attempted to administer [a medication].
The nurse asked three adults in the room to verify the patient, since the patient was a pediatric patient and no ID bracelet was on. All three verified and allowed the nurse to give the medication to the patient when it was the wrong patient.The wrong patient profile was viewed on the screen. The nurse pulled Vicodin® for pain for a patient in 123A but was on the patient in 123B medication profile. The scan matched and at this point, the nurse did not notice that he was on the wrong profile.
The nurse approached 123A, scanned [the patient’s] bracelet, and administered the medication without checking the screen to see if the correct patient was scanned.Wrong-Patient Errors during TranscribingThe second most prevalent node in which errors originated was transcribing.
Transcribing was defined as the process that involves the transferring of a paper medication order to a patient’s electronic or paper MAR. Nurses, pharmacists, unit clerks, and others can perform this task; however, few of the reports identify the personnel involved. Of the transcribing events, most errors were due to transferring orders into the wrong chart (81.4%, n = 253). Various contributing factors were identified, but none were associated with more than 4.1% (n = 4) of reports. In one report, a physician gave a verbal order for a medication but did not use the patient’s full name. The pharmacist was notified, who reported that the cardiologist called asking for a “stat” amiodarone for a patient but only gave the patient’s last name. It was later discovered that the patient was in the registration area but not yet admitted.
The doctor had indicated that it was an urgent situation.The doctor came to see the patient, while the nurse was in the room, and discussed the medications he was going to order. However, since the patient is in the same room with his wife, the doctor spoke to both of them.
When the doctor told the husband what medications he was going to write, he also told them to the nurse and went to the desk to write orders.
While looking over the copy of the orders, the nurse noticed they were written on an order sheet with the patient’s wife’s ID sticker on it. The nurse went to the wife’s chart and saw that the doctor had written the orders in the wrong chart.
A filling error is made when a medication prescribed for one patient is dispensed from the pharmacy for a different patient.
When I called the pharmacy to inquire about it, the pharmacy said they had no recall of them sending the Levaquin for 465, but they said they did recall that it was sent for 456. A pharmacist who was on the unit was approached by nursing about the delivery of the Fioricet, as it was not in the patient's drawer.
The nurse happened to look in the medication drawer of another patient and discovered the Fioricet.Contributing Factors Associated with Wrong-Patient ErrorsBesides those mentioned above, several contributing factors that span the medication-use process were identified.
Although the proportions were low, these characteristics were present in events that may have been prevented with system changes (see Table 2).  Table 2.

Contributing Factors and Characteristics of Wrong-Patient Errors,  as Reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority,  July 2011 to December 2011.In roughly 6% (n = 52) of the events, reporters mentioned that one patient was confused with another because both patients were to receive the same medication. While most of the errors occurred during administration, four errors (7.7%) originated during prescribing. In another example, a nurse confused intravenous (IV) medication bags for two of his patients who were on the same medication. Since I was all the way in the back hall, I removed both vancomycin [bags] from the fridge at the nursing station. ISMP has recommended that verbal orders be limited to use during emergencies and similar situations.12 The following example typifies a verbal order that was transcribed onto the wrong patient’s chart.
Later, another patient was complaining of itching, and the nurse received a report that an order was obtained. The low prevalence may be because many hospitals may already have mechanisms in place to prevent confusion between patients with similar names.
In fact, the assumption that similar names are the cause of most wrong-patient errors may result in other failure points being ignored. The example below mentions that two patients had the same first letter of their last names, but this was likely not the only reason for the incorrect transcription.An order for Imodium® 2 mg as needed was entered for the wrong patient on the same floor.
The order was sent to the pharmacy two more times after the original was entered on the wrong patient. In one example, the confusion involved a discharged patient who had previously occupied the same bed. Two other examples described insulin pens of discharged patients being dispensed or used on current patients. Even documents from discharged patients were mistaken for those of current patients.During the morning assessment, it was noticed that the previously infused antibiotic syringe on the IV pole with another patient’s name on the medication label was connected to current patient. The name and date of birth were on the label for a discharged patient, from the previous day, [who had occupied the] same room and bed.The patient in this room was ordered a heparin drip based on an ECG [electrocardiogram] strip on the chart that showed a rhythm of atrial fibrillation.
The ECG strip that was on the chart did not belong to this patient but was from the patient who had been in the room yesterday but had been discharged. The heparin drip was ordered this morning by the cardiology resident, and the error was found this afternoon during cardiology rounds by the cardiologist.
The patient never received any heparin, and the order was discontinued as soon as it was discovered by the cardiologist.Finally, some reports described events in which patients or their family members caught wrong-patient errors. Below is an example that illustrates one such case.I was called to the patient’s room by the wife who noted, within 10 minutes of initiation of infusion, that the IV pump read vancomycin but the medication bag was labeled as acyclovir and with a different patient’s name. Dose immediately discontinued and no reaction noted.Risk Reduction StrategiesThe reports of wrong-patient events submitted to the Authority reveal the complex nature of wrong-patient medication errors (see Table 3). While often thought to occur only during administration, these types of errors were identified in all phases of the medication-use process. Descriptions of How Wrong-Patient Medication Errors Occur,    by Node, as Reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority,  July 2011 to December 2011     Improve Patient Verification for All Patient EncountersWhile the Joint Commission has an NPSG of improving the accuracy of patient identification, the proper use of two patient identifiers may still not be performed at all times.13,14 Such verification should be considered for all patient-associated tasks, including prescribing, reporting of test results, and communication of medication information between providers. Several reports illustrate examples whereby patients with similar room numbers or the same drug were prescribed, dispensed, or administered a dose intended for another patient.
Overreliance on patient location and the name of the medication ordered may have contributed to one event reported to the Authority about a pharmacy technician dispensing an insulin pen with the label of a previous patient located in the same bed attached to it. In fact, the Joint Commission’s NPSG requires healthcare practitioners to use at least two patient identifiers (not the patient’s room number or location) when providing care, treatment, and services. If used, clearly label these bins and design them to facilitate medication delivery and retrieval. Moreover, some of the reports describe patients receiving the wrong medication because doses intended for other patients were placed in the former patients’ rooms.Similarly, store and return patient-specific documents in the patient’s chart. For example, a misplaced monitoring sheet may result in an unnecessary treatment for another patient. Standardizing the labeling practices for paper documents, monitoring sheets, and lab results can decrease the risk of wrong-patient errors.Lastly, institute procedures to remove medications and documents from active patient care areas when patients are discharged. Bar coding during medication administration can be a reliable double check if performed correctly.
Some of the reports analyzed in this study stated that bar coding successfully detected the wrong-patient error; however, a number of reports indicated that improper use of scanning prevented the error from being caught.
In these instances, nurses administered the medication first then scanned the patient’s armband second, or nurses failed to check for a confirmation from the scanning prior to administration. ISMP has received many reports similar to the latter example and has described this problem in its newsletters.19Hospitals often use ADCs as secure storage units for medications without fully using system capabilities to prevent errors. An ADC that allows nurses to override a majority of medications essentially eliminates a pharmacist’s double check of the prescriber’s order. Standardize policies that detail when verbal orders are appropriate, who may receive verbal orders, how to give and receive these orders, and the safety checks that should be used to prevent error. In an earlier example, the prescriber failed to provide appropriate identification and the pharmacist failed to confirm the patient’s identity by reading back patient identifiers in the chart. They noticed IV bags with labels that had another patient’s name, and in one event described earlier, a family member even noticed the medication mismatch on the IV bag and the IV pump.Establish patient education programs to teach patients the importance of accurate patient identification during all points of contact and how staff should be verifying their identities. For example, if the facility uses bar-code identification, encourage the patient to speak up if his armband is not scanned prior to medication administration. To accomplish this, some organizations have implemented programs in which patients and family members become active partners in ensuring patient safety. These programs include brief safety orientations for the patient upon admission, dedicated hotlines, and educational material listing questions that the patient should be asking the healthcare practitioners who care for them.ConclusionWrong-patient medication errors can occur at any phase of the medication-use process. While events reported to the Authority suggest that these errors occurred most often during administration and transcription, implementing safety strategies at all nodes can help to ensure that the correct patient receives the correct medication.AcknowledgmentsMichael J. Gaunt, PharmD, Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, contributed to manuscript preparation.NotesNational Patient Safety Agency.
He thought the “lady in the door” was the “lady in the window”: a qualitative study of patient identification practices.
Understanding and preventing wrong-patient electronic orders: a randomized controlled trial [online]. The use of patient pictures and verification screens to reduce computerized provider order entry errors.
The physician taking care of Patient A asked the nurse to order vancomycin for that patient. The nurse had the electronic charts for both Patient A and Patient B open and accidentally entered the medication on Patient B’s chart. The pharmacist verifying the order received a duplicate-medication alert from the computer system and realized that Patient B had already been started on vancomycin two days earlier.

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