In Brief

Surgeon Left Scalpel in Veteran's Abdomen, Lawsuit Claims

scalpel, faxon law group
An X-ray shows the 5-inch scalpel handle in the man's abdomen. (Image credit: Courtesy of Faxon Law Group)

A veteran in Connecticut is suing a Veterans Affairs hospital, claiming that someone left a scalpel handle inside his abdomen after surgery, according to news reports.

Army veteran Glenford Turner had surgery in 2013 to remove all or part of his prostate gland, according to NPR. The lawsuit alleges that during this operation, a trainee surgeon left the instrument behind and sewed up the wound.

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After the surgery, the man went on to have "unidentifiable abdominal pain at the time," Turner's lawyer, Joel Faxon, told NPR yesterday (Jan. 16).

However, it wasn't until Turner had an MRI in 2017 that the metal object was discovered. (MRIs use powerful magnets that can pull on metal in their vicinity.) Technicians had to stop the procedure "because [Turner had] all this pain," Faxon said.

The object — which court documents describe as a "5-inch [13 centimeters] scalpel handle" — was removed in a subsequent operation, according to NPR. It's not clear if the handle had a scalpel blade attached.

It's not uncommon for surgical materials and instruments to be left behind in patients: A 2012 study in the journal Surgery found that doctors leave objects such as towels, cotton balls, sponges and other equipment inside patients' bodies about 39 times a week, on average.

Read more at NPR.

Originally published on Live Science

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.