Surgical Malpractice Lawsuit Over Forgotten Sponge Results in $2.5M

A jury awarded $2.5 million last week in a Kentucky malpractice lawsuit filed by a woman who was injured when a surgical sponge was left inside her after surgery.

The surgery sponge lawsuit was filed by Sophia Savage against Three Rivers Medical Center, alleging that a medical mistake during her December 2001 hysterectomy resulted in the foreign object being behind.

Approximately three and a half years after the surgery, Savage discovered that a lab sponge was not removed by her surgeon and the medical staff. Savage alleged that the sponge caused her suffer abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, anxiety and depression.

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To retrieve the foreign object, she required surgery that involved the removal of a portion of her small intestine which the sponge had become lodged against.

A combined verdict of over $2.5 million was returned by a Lawrence County, Kentucky jury, including $65,969 for medical expenses, $1,934,031 for past and future pain, and $500,000 for her husband’s loss of consortium claim.

Leaving a surgical sponge behind after a medical procedure is rare, but can pose serious and potentially fatal consequences. Precautionary measures like sponge counts, tracking bar codes and radiographic screening after operations can greatly reduce the risk.

According to a 2003 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there were about 1,500 cases a year in which a sponge or surgical tool was left behind after surgery. Approximately 88% of the cases involved a final count that was incorrect.

In many cases, forgotten surgical sponges left after surgery are not discovered for a number or years, when patients begin suffering from unexplained symptoms.

The difficulty in detecting the surgical mistake has led most states to allow exeptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits in cases where a foreign object is left behind during surgery.


  • MaudFebruary 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    My son just had a piece of his lung removed for some kind of tumor. What was found was an abscess with 4 x 4 gauze with xray markers in it.He had open heart surgery at a Houston hospital in Texas years ago and this is the only way the gauze could have made it to his lung.

  • HeatherDecember 28, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Concerned about a foreign object in bowel. When it comes out where should I take it to have it analyzed?

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