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Surgical Equipment Left in Patient's Head After Surgery

At some point, everyone has wished that they had more in their brains. For one patient, that's exactly what he got. Unfortunately, what was left in his head was actually a piece of a surgical drill bit that measures at about a quarter of an inch long.

The patient had been in the hospital for a brain operation. The piece of drill bit was discovered two days later and removed. Thus far, the surgeon who conducted the neurosurgery and the operating room staff have been suspended pending investigation. But there are still problems that will arise.

There was a lack of due care on the part of the hospital staff. When there are many people working on one person, it can be difficult determining who contributed to the negligence. The doctor was not the only person to miss the piece of metal; nurses, technicians, and assistants also failed to notice that part of their equipment was still in the patient's head.

The hospital is now dealing with a lot of negative publicity and an investigation by the Health Department to determine what went wrong. They also may be facing a medical malpractice lawsuit from the patient.

When the patient entered the hospital, the doctor in charge of his care had the duty to provide the proper and necessary treatment, which in this case was to perform the neurosurgery. However, leaving a piece of equipment in a patient's head and not realizing the mistake until two days later is not proper care.

It is unclear at this point whether the patient suffered any type of injury from the bit being in their head, but the additional surgical procedure required to remove the drill bit was intrusive, especially since the wound had begun to heal after the initial surgery. Similarly, there have been three other incidents at this hospital when medical professionals operated on the wrong parts of their patients' heads.

We will post an update about this case when more information becomes available.

Source: StarTribune.com, "Doctor suspended after piece of surgical drill bit left in patient's head at RI hospital," Associated Press, 15 October 2010

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