New lawsuit alleges Tomball Regional Medical Center OR nurses leave surgical gauze in patient's belly

Painter Law Firm filed a lawsuit yesterday against Tomball Regional Medical Center after operating room (OR) nurses left a piece of surgical gauze in a patient’s stomach, where it remained for two years and caused a terrible infection.

You can read the petition here. The Harris County District Clerk assigned the case to the 127th District Court, where The Hon. R.K. Sandhill is the presiding judge.

Tomball Regional Medical Center is a part of the mega-chain of hospitals HCA Houston Healthcare. The hospital is located at 605 Holderrieth Blvd., Tomball, Texas 77375.

It all started when a patient went to the hospital to have her gallbladder removed. The surgery itself went well, but during the procedure, the Tomball Regional Medical Center OR nursing staff did not follow the standard of care, failing to complete a proper surgical sponge and gauze count.

Leaving foreign bodies inside a patient after surgery is such a significant and preventable error that The Joint Commission, an accrediting body for hospitals, calls it a sentinel event. As such, there are universal standards in effect at hospitals nationwide to prevent this from happening. Further, sentinel events are also called never events and must be reported to The Joint Commission and then studied by the hospital to make sure they don’t occur again.

Over two years later, the patient returned to Tomball Regional Hospital, this time with complaints of abdominal pain and swelling. A few days later, she was taken to the operating room, where a surgeon found a retained piece of surgical gauze at the location of her original surgery.

This was the first time that the patient and her family became aware that a foreign body had been left inside her abdominal cavity, where an infection formed and festered into an abscess. This disease process spread to the patient’s lungs and other vital organs and almost took her life. Although she fortunately survived this incident, the patient continues to suffer from impairments including speech issues, loss of bowel and bladder control, and can no longer walk.

Although the general statute of limitations in Texas for medical negligence cases is two years, this is a case where I believe the discovery rule applies. In situations where a reasonable patient would be unaware that surgical gauze, for example, had been left in her abdomen, courts extend the statute of limitations and allow a claim to be filed beyond the two-year mark.

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Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.