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Surgical Needle in Patient 8-yrs After Surgery

CATEGORIES: Surgical Errors CASE LOCATION: Westmoreland Co., PA. CLASSIFICATION: Substantial Recoveries

The Cooley Case

In this case, our client, Robert Cooley, had a right inguinal (hip) hernia repair surgery performed at his local hospital in 2000. Following the surgery, and over the course of the next 7 years, Mr. Cooley had severe pain in his right hip and treated with various health care providers and pain management specialists.

Finally, in September 2007, an x-ray of Mr. Cooley’s right hip was ordered which revealed the presence of a “foreign object.” In November 2007, surgery was performed to extract the foreign object, which turned out to be the surgical needle from the hernia repair surgery 7-years earlier.

In 2008, suit was filed against the hospital and the surgeon who performed the 2000 surgery. It should be noted that we were permitted to file suit years after the standard 2-year statute of limitations because Mr. Cooley did not have the ability to know of the negligence until the 2007 x-ray (commonly referred to as the “discovery rule”).

After an invasive procedure, such as the 2000 hernia repair, a circulating nurse is responsible for performing a surgical count. A surgical count is the process whereby a circulating nurse counts the number of surgical instruments used (e.g. needles, sponges), makes sure that all instruments are accounted for, and instantly records this information in the patient’s medical record.

In the discovery phase of this case, we requested the hospital to produce Mr. Cooley’s “Instrument–Sponge–Needle Counts” medical record. Once produced, it became obvious that the hospital circulating nurse negligently failed to perform an accurate postoperative surgical count, as the nurse recorded that all instruments and needles were accounted for.

In a rare occurrence – due to the glaring negligence – this case was settled for a substantial sum after suit was filed but prior to any depositions being taken.