Woman sits 1.5 years after caesarean section with retractor in abdominal cavity

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A surgical error left a woman in Auckland, New Zealand, with a retractor in her abdomen for a year and a half. The object remained in her abdominal cavity after she gave birth.

The so-called Alexis Wound Retractor, the size of a plate, is used during surgical procedures to keep the wound open in a sterile manner. In this case it was used in a caesarean section.

The incident was announced yesterday following an investigation by the New Zealand Health Authority. The woman in her twenties regularly went to the doctor for a year and a half because of severe pain, but the cause was still not found. The object was also not detected on X-rays. Only after a CT scan did it become clear what was wrong.

Not the first time

The health authority says it is very disappointed in the Auckland hospital, also because it is the second time that an object has been left in a patient. In 2018, a cotton swab was left in a woman’s abdominal cavity.

Tighter controls have been put in place at the Auckland hospital since that incident. All surgical staff had to count all the instruments they use in the operation. But according to the healthcare authority, not all surgeons were aware of that policy. In addition, the retractor was not yet on the surgical counting list at that time.

“Possibly because the instrument largely remains outside the body, so there should be no risk of it remaining in the patient,” explains a nurse from the hospital.

It is still unclear why the surgeons missed the object. The hospital has apologized to the patient. According to the BBC, the case is now being investigated by lawyers to see if further action should be taken.

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