Surgeons leave eight-inch long forceps inside patient's body – and are only discovered during X-ray weeks later
Medical instruments should be counted before and after an operation and an X-ray taken if the numbers don't match



12:12 GMT, 7 August 2012

A man had to undergo emergency surgery after bungling medics left a pair of forceps inside his body during an appendix operation.

The eight-inch long surgical implements were left inside a patient at a hospital in Kent and were only discovered weeks later after he returned to the ward for a routine X-ray.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust yesterday said an investigation had been launched.

Eight-inch long forceps were left in a patient in a hospital in Kent recently

Eight-inch long forceps were left in a patient in a hospital in Kent recently

Julie Pearce, chief nurse at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, said: 'These are events that shouldn’t happen and happen very rarely.

'In the last three years, we’ve only had one of those events and each year we do about 90,000 surgical procedures.'

It is standard practice for all surgical tools to be counted both before and after an operation to check if any are missing.

Ms Pearce, also director of quality and operations at East Kent Hospitals, said: 'What normally happens is that if the count doesn’t match up, an X-ray is done while the patient is still in theatre.

'In this case, staff hadn’t completely adhered to policy. They had scanned the patient’s abdomen, but hadn’t done a full X-ray.'

The blunder – which happened in April – is one of three similar incidents at hospitals in the county in the last three years.

In one incident recorded by the Medway NHS Foundation Trust, a drill bit broke off in a patient’s femur. Another patient had a small fragment of a drill left inside the palm of their hand.

In both cases it was decided the drill bits should be left inside the patients.

Dr Mike Smith, vice chairman of the Patients’ Association, said: 'If the dangers of going in again to remove it are greater than leaving it there, that’s something that needs to be assessed at the time.

'But whenever there are humans involved something must go wrong – obviously if it could be avoided completely that would be ideal.'