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Surgical Towels Never Belong Inside People: Medical Malpractice

Surgeons and other Operating Room staff are quite clear that surgical towels never belong inside people. In fact, they should never be placed inside a patient’s body for any period of time. If they are found there, medical malpractice has occurred.Surgical Towels Never Belong Inside People -- Altizer Law PC

In one case, upon completing abdominal surgery on a woman, the surgeon closed the wound, and ordered an immediate x-ray to ensure that no foreign objects had been left inside the woman. The x-ray showed no foreign items, such as lap pads or sponges. What the x-ray did not show was a 16” by 22” blue surgical towel. The towel did not appear in the x-ray because it is not radiopaque (as other pads and sponges are).

After discharge, the patient (plaintiff) experienced pain, vomiting, nausea, fatigue and weight loss. The towel remained inside the plaintiff for ten months, until it was found by an oncologist and removed.

Since the towel was removed, plaintiff has suffered numerous difficulties due to the massive infection caused by the presence of the towel. These difficulties include:

  • Multiple surgical procedures.
  • Open abdominal wound requiring daily dressing until the time of the trial two years later.
  • Multiple hospitalizations due to loss of blood, dehydration and sepsis.
  • Chronic pain that will continue for the rest of her life.
  • An abdominal area that has been so severely damaged that she will remain at risk of infection and other complications for the rest of her life.

During the medical malpractice trial the defendant and his attorneys did not challenge the extent or effect of the plaintiff’s damages due to the initial surgery. The defendant doctor testified that he did not put the towel in the plaintiff’s abdomen. He testified as well that he did not see anyone else put the towel in the plaintiff’s abdomen. He testified that he was at the operating table during the entire time of the woman’s surgery.

An expert witness for the defendant claimed that the towel could have been “missed” when the surgical team was checking the wound prior to closing because of the plaintiff’s positioning on the operating table. The expert witness also suggested that the towel could have migrated as a result of the plaintiff’s position.

The plaintiff had incurred $444,000 in medical costs to the time of the trial. Immediately before closing arguments at the trial, the defendant offered to settle the case for $700,000. This offer was declined by the plaintiff. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, holding the doctor liable for medical malpractice. The amount of the jury’s award was $2,000,000.

Medical malpractice cases are always tragic because patients are injured or harmed due to the negligence or mistakes of medical professionals. Violations of standards of care and negligence lead to medical malpractice lawsuits that attempt to demonstrate the cause of the harm and to demand financial compensation for the harmed plaintiffs. The money will not undo the damage or harm. We hope that it will help the plaintiffs rebuild their lives and pay for future medical expenses related to the medical malpractice.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to the negligence or misdeeds of medical professionals, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover financial damages. When you need a medical malpractice attorney in Virginia, call Altizer Law, P.C. For more than 25 years Bettina Altizer has been helping people harmed by medical malpractice to recover financial damages to help them rebuild their lives.