Spongy Surgery Surprises: What Is a Gossypiboma?

A recent study has estimated that U.S. doctors make more than 4,000 surgical errors each year. More than half of these errors involve an object that is left in the body. Most of the time, these objects are sponges.

Indeed, sponges are left in the body often enough that the injuries resulting from this type of surgical error have a name, gossypiboma – a combination of gossypium, the Latin word for cotton, and boma, the Swahili word for hidden. Some doctors also use the termtextilioma.

Why are gossypibomas such a big problem?

During surgery, gauze sponges are used to control bleeding and absorb body fluids at the surgery site. These pads are small, and if there are unexpected complications, a bloody sponge can be easily left behind.

Sponges are most often left in the body when:

  • The patient is undergoing unplanned, emergency surgery
  • The surgery takes an unusually long time
  • There is a sudden or unexpected change in the scope of surgery
  • More than one surgical team is involved in the procedure
  • The surgery involves an unexpected blood transfusion
  • The patient is obese

It is standard medical practice to count and record sponges several times during an operation:

  • Before the first incision is made
  • When any layer of the body is closed up
  • As soon as the final closure of the skin begins.

Any time new sponges are brought into the operating room, they must be added to the written count. No sponges should be removed from the operating room until the count is complete and all sponges are accounted for.

To prevent gossypiboma, some hospitals use sponges that have x-ray or radio frequency tags that can be detected when a detector wand is waved over the patient’s body. If a sponge has been left behind, the wand sounds an alarm. But despite these precautions, gossypibomas are still a major cause of preventable post-surgery complications.

Symptoms of gossypiboma include:

  • Severe pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Infection
  • Scarring of internal organs
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Fistula in the bowels
  • Intestinal wall erosion
  • Death

If you or someone you love has suffered from gossypiboma, you have the right to seek accountability and compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and any permanent injury or scarring resulting from the medical mistake.

If you would like more information about Tennessee medical malpractice claims, please contact the Memphis surgical injury lawyers at Bailey & Greer at 901-680-9777 to schedule a free legal consultation.