Deaths from forgotten swabs in the abdomen

Deaths from forgotten swabs in the abdomen

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Patient protectors warn of the consequences of forgotten surgical cutlery in the patient's body

On the occasion of its annual conference, which started in Berlin, the Patient Safety Action Alliance (APS) warns of the dangerous consequences of forgotten surgical cutlery in the patient's body. According to an estimate by the non-profit association, forgotten swabs, needles and the like cause between 600 and 700 deaths in Germany each year.

600 to 700 deaths due to forgotten swabs and surgical cutlery in the patient's body It is very rare for doctors to forget the instruments or materials used in an operation in the patient's body. If a swab or needle remains in the operated part of the body, however, this can have life-threatening consequences. The GSP points this out and estimates that 600 to 700 patients could die of it every year in Germany. The numbers are based on studies and surveys.

A US study from 2008 found that one out of 5,500 operations misses an object in the patient's body. Two thirds of the cases were swabs that can cause serious infections. Around 15.8 million operations were performed in Germany in 2013. Based on the figures from the study, this would correspond to around 2,800 cases in Germany. However, there are also expert estimates, which assume an operation of 1,000 operations, in which surgical cutlery is forgotten.

The question of how swabs and other materials remain in the patient's body often cannot be answered. Because safety measures such as counting the cutlery before and after the operation should prevent such serious errors. But: where people work, mistakes are made. The GSP therefore demands stricter rules.

APS calls for stronger institutions for more patient safety As the alliance points out, forgotten surgical cutlery is just one example of the risks that patients in hospitals are exposed to. APS chairwoman Hedwig Francois-Kettner explained in an interview with the news agency "dpa" that the interest of patients in the German healthcare system is often neglected. Instead, the focus is on economic interests. Stronger institutions for more patient safety are needed. "We have to recognize that a non-profit organization has its limits," said Francois-Kettner. Among other things, doctors, medical societies, clinics and health insurers are members of the APS.

At the beginning of the year, the Federal Council asked the health insurance companies to invest up to EUR 500,000 a year in facilities to improve patient safety. However, the federal government is not expected to follow this initiative.

If patients or their relatives suspect that doctors have made a medical mistake, they can also contact their health insurance provider in addition to the GSP, who will examine such cases.

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