Retained sponge after cesarean delivery

June 1, 2010

A 29-year-old woman from Illinois had a cesarean delivery in 2004. A laparatomy sponge was left behind in her abdomen but was not diagnosed until 7 months later when a surgeon examined her for what was thought to be a stitch abscess.

A 29-YEAR-OLD ILLINOIS WOMAN underwent a cesarean delivery in 2004. A laparotomy sponge was left inside the patient's abdomen but was not diagnosed until 7 months later when a surgeon examined her for what was believed to be a stitch abscess. The surgeon pulled a 12-inch sponge out through the incision while the patient was awake because he thought it was only a retained stitch. This caused her severe pain. She then underwent a laparotomy with placement of drains the next day and was hospitalized for several days, followed by 6 days of postoperative drainage.

The patient sued the obstetrician, although no permanent injuries were claimed, because the laparotomy incision was made at the same site as the cesarean incision, and the woman subsequently gave birth to another child without complication.

The obstetrician claimed that the nurses assisting in the surgery were responsible for the sponge count. The hospital had settled with the patient before trial. A $110,410 verdict was returned against the physician.

In states where juries are not made aware of other sources of payments, awards, or settlements, including coverage for medical care costs, jurors may think that this could be the only award for damages that the patient might receive.

MS COLLINS is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, California. She welcomes feedback on this column via e-mail to dawncfree@gmail.com
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