- Sponges were probably left after a C-section, study authors say
- "Retained surgical items" can cause pain, discomfort, sepsis or even death
The unidentified 42-year-old went to a primary care clinic in Japan, saying she had experienced bloating for three years, according to the report, published Wednesday.
A CT scan of her abdomen showed two masses with strings attached to them. A surgical procedure called a laparotomy confirmed the presence of two gauze sponges that had become attached to the patient's omentum -- a fold of tissue that connects the stomach with other abdominal structures -- and colon.
The authors concluded that the sponges were probably left after a cesarean section. The woman had had two cesarean sections -- one six years earlier and one nine years earlier -- but it is unclear which one resulted in the retained items. She did not have any other abdominal or pelvic surgeries, according Dr. Takeshi Kondo, a general medicine physician at Chiba University Hospital and a lead author of the report.
"The patient received two C-sections in the same gynecologic clinic," Kondo said. "Although she met the surgeon and told him (about) the retained foreign bodies, the surgeon did not admit his mistake on the grounds of lack of clear proof."
After the removal of the sponges, the patient's symptoms resolved, and she was discharged five days later.
Many -- but not all -- Japanese hospitals and clinics perform imaging of the abdomen before closing a surgical wound to ensure that no items are left inside the patient, Kondo said.
In the United States, about a dozen sponges and other surgical instruments are left inside patients' bodies every day, resulting in around 4,500 to 6,000 cases per year,