Teleflex Lawsuit Filed After Part of Surgical Tool Left in Patient’s Neck

A medical device manufacturer faces a product liability lawsuit after a piece of one of its surgical instruments broke off during a procedure and was left inside a patient’s neck.

Teleflex recently removed a complaint filed by Michael Kellerman from Illinois’ St. Clair County Circuit Court to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Kellerman originally filed the lawsuit in July, indicating that the tip of a #12 Pilling bougie, or dilator, broke off of the tool inside of his neck while he was undergoing pharyngeosophageal segment dilation during throat surgery at Barnes Jewish Hospital in Illinois in June 2011.

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The complaint presents claims against the medical device maker for negligence and manufacturing defects, seeking more than $100,000 in damages from medical expenses, economic expenses and the cost of bringing the lawsuit.

Teleflex has removed the case from state court to the federal court system, based on diversity jurisdiction. The company and subsidiaries that are part of the lawsuit have headquarters and major operations in California, Delaware, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Teleflex Medical Inc. and Teleflex Inc, both listed as defendants in the lawsuit, do business as Pilling.

Leaving a surgical tool behind after a medical procedure is rare, but can pose serious and potentially fatal consequences. Precautionary measures like surgical tool counts, tracking bar codes and radiographic screening after operations can greatly reduce risk. The most common surgical tools left behind in patients are sponges.

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 exemptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice suits in cases where a foreign object is left behind during surgery.

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