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Surgery Mistake Is Costly

Jun 25, 2004 | The Arizona Republic

Maricopa County supervisors agreed to pay $320,000 to settle a medical malpractice case involving a patient who died after surgeons left a sponge in her abdomen.

Medical studies show leaving behind foreign bodies during surgery is an uncommon but dangerous error.

Patricia Ann Hottois, 53, of Phoenix, died last year of septic shock after the abdominal pad was left in her surgical wound. She had been admitted to Maricopa Medical Center for intestinal surgery on June 8, 2003.

Nearly two weeks later, doctors discovered the pad after Hottois complained of pain, according to a notice of claim filed against the county.

Hottois died July 1, 2003. She left behind four daughters, who were described as "very close" to their mother.

Family members could not be reached Thursday, and Sheinson declined to comment.

Supervisors approved the settlement last week.

Estimates suggest that these types of surgical errors occur in about one out of every 1,000 to 1,500 abdominal operations, according to a 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Hospital spokeswoman Sarah Harper said she could not comment on litigation but described the incident as extremely rare.

"Probably over the past 10 years here at the health system, it has occurred less than a fraction of a percent of all the surgical cases," she said.

In 2000, Maricopa Medical Center doctors also had to remove a sponge accidentally left in the abdomen of a Tempe police officer after a shootout left him injured.

The sponge was removed from Officer Wesley Tipton a few days after the initial surgery. Officials had said the sponge had not hindered the officer's healing process.


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