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General Health Channel
Reported February 19, 2007

Surgery Gone Wrong!

Surgery Gone Wrong!ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Last year, Lenny LeClair went to the hospital for "routine" surgery. But he left the operating room much worse than he came in. "I never stopped throwing up," he says.

LeClair lost 100 pounds!

"I thought I was dying," he says. "I felt like I was dying." When doctors realized what was wrong, LeClair was almost dead. It turned out they left behind a gauze sponge that had pierced his colon.

There are 40 million surgeries in the United States each year, but what's supposed to make you better can sometimes kill you. This year, about 1,500 Americans will leave the operating room with a surgical instrument left in their body. Sometimes it does no harm, but in some cases the consequences are deadly.

Sponges and instruments can get left behind during surgery because they're often covered in blood and hard to spot. And hospital staff sometimes miscounts -- easy to do in emergency situations where seconds matter.

Surgery Gone Wrong!"Basically, the counting procedure for instruments and sponges is the same as it was 40 years ago," Alex Macario, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Stanford School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., tells Ivanhoe. "We're trying to use 21st century technology to help people keep track of supplies in the operating room."

That technology is radio frequency identification (RFID). In a new study, doctors attached RFID chips to surgical sponges and then waved a wand over a patient after surgery. The chips alerted the doctor if a sponge was left inside 100 percent of the time.

Surgery Gone Wrong!"What we're interested in now is how to make it more foolproof so that it's not dependent on the personnel in the operating room to do the scan correctly every time on every patient," Dr. Macario says. He hopes to build the technology into operating rooms in the future. Other surgical instruments -- like scissors -- are sometimes left behind, but in most cases it's sponges.

As for LeClair, he is still recovering and going through more surgeries, and he's in the middle of a lawsuit.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, which offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, click on: /newsalert/.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Stanford University Medical Center
Stanford Patient Referral Center
300 Pasture Drive
Stanford, CA 94305
(800) 756-9000

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