Los Angeles' Keck Hospital was recently cited by state regulators for a medical malpractice incident in which a foreign object was left in a patient's chest. A report from the California Department of Public Health indicates that a patient came to the hospital for a redo of a stemotomy and aortic valve replacement.
A subsequent analysis of the patient's x-rays revealed that there was a foreign object in the patient's chest cavity.
The object was removed by a video-assisted thoracoscopic procedure under general anesthesia and it was revealed to be a tip from an electrocautery pencil cautery, which is a device used to sear tissue after a surgery and stop bleeding.
An investigation indicated that nurses at the hospital failed to follow the hospital's "counts: Sharps and Sponges/Instruments" policy after the patient's surgery. The hospital's safety policy specifically states that "sharps" include "suture needles, scarpel blades, and cautery tips."
The CDPH report also concludes that the hospital's failure to follow its own health and safety procedures exposed the patient to serious injury or death in addition to requiring the patient to undergo another surgical procedure. It is unclear whether the patient has filed a personal injury lawsuit related to this incident or whether the hospital has attempted to proactively settle the matter.
Source: California Department of Public Health, "CDPH Issues Penalties to 13 Hospitals," June 1, 2012