retained foreign object

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retained foreign object (surgical)



Any implement used in surgery left inside the patient after the surgery is completed. The rate of retention is estimated at 1 in 7000 procedures. The most common objects left inside the patient are sponges. Surgical packing, sharp objects such as sutures or needles, and operative instruments are also occasionally unaccounted for postoperatively.


Strict protocols for evaluation of the operating theatre and the surgical wound must be employed to prevent leaving foreign objects inside surgical wounds. These include: accounting for all surgical materials before, during, and after an operation; exploring the wound meticulously whenever a discrepancy in a surgical count is identified; performing radiological studies, as indicated, to identify lost implements; and keeping clear and complete documentation of all findings is done. In spite of these measures, an RFO may not be identified until after the patient has left the operating room (short term or long term interval) necessitating subsequent removal.
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