Woman suing UW Medicine after sponge left inside abdomen during surgery

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

SEATTLE —

A woman who had abdominal surgery at Seattle's University of Washington Medical Center is suing after a surgeon left a sponge inside her body, court documents said.

According to court documents, the victim had surgery in August 2009 to repair multiple incisional hernias.

In the days following the surgery, the woman reported having abdominal pain and foul-smelling discharge from her incision.

She had four follow-up appointments with the surgeon, E. Patchen Dellinger, in September, October and  December, and reported her symptoms.  She was readmitted to UW Medical Center by Dellinger on Dec. 11, 2009.

Five days later, Dellinger performed an exploratory surgery in which he found infected mesh, which he removed from her abdominal wall.  While he worked to remove the mesh, he found gauze and a laparotomy sponge, Dellinger wrote in an operative report.

Court papers say the sponge was left in the woman’s body from Aug. 21, 2009 to Dec. 16, 2009, which caused the surgery site to become infected.

Because of the infection, the woman had to wait before a third surgery could be performed to complete her hernia repair and re-attach her abdominal wall.

Documents said the woman experienced emotional distress, severe pain and physical limitations through May 18, 2010, as a result of the infection caused by the sponge. The lawsuit, which claims health care negligence, also says the victim’s abdominal wall is now disfigured.

Her surgeon is being sued, accused of failing to remove all surgical material and equipment from the woman’s body cavity as well as failing to monitor, supervise and perform and complete a surgical safety check list at the start and conclusion of the surgery.

UW Medicine is also being sued for corporate negligence for failing to adequately train, supervise and monitor its employees as well as failing to adopt or enforce procedures and policies.

She is asking for compensation for damages suffered in the past as well as costs of future medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity and other special damages to be determined at the time of the trial.

Documents said UW Medicine declined to settle the lawsuit through voluntary arbitration.