An unintended retained surgical item is a foreign object the surgical team accidentally leaves behind in the body cavity. It is a type of medical malpractice that should not happen with proper communication and procedural protocols in the operating room.

Retained surgical items can cause a range of adverse health effects for the patient. Victims with retained surgical items after surgeries in Saint Paul, Minnesota, may be able to file lawsuits against doctors or health care centers in pursuit of financial recovery.

Surgical sponges

Retained surgical items are ‘never events,’ or events that should never occur in safe and prudent operating rooms. These cases only happen when one or more people in the operating room are negligent. Human errors such as failing to properly count items before and after the operation can lead to leaving items behind in the body cavity.

According to a study on the subject, surgeons and their assistants most often leave behind surgical sponges. Retained sponges can cause stomach pain, infections and fever. Health care professionals may be able to prevent retained surgical sponges with methods such as barcoding and scanning them, or more carefully counting them.


Sharps refer to scalpels, surgical needles and blades. Leaving behind one of the many sharps a surgeon uses for a surgery could cause serious personal injuries such as organ perforation and internal bleeding. Again, counting all sharps before and after the procedure can help prevent this type of retained foreign object.


Depending on the nature of the surgery, an operating table may contain dozens of special instruments. Some of the most universal are forceps, scissors, clamps, nails, screws, soft goods and retractors. The operating team could leave behind any of these instruments due to lack of communication, cutting corners, ignoring protocols or negligence.

It is up to surgical staff members at a hospital to follow best practices for preventing the retention of surgical items within a patient. Failure to reasonably prevent this event, resulting in harm to the patient, can lead to surgeon or hospital liability.