Surgical Nurse Leaves Catheter Behind in Patient’s Pelvis


catheterThis OR operations case involves a pregnant patient who had an intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) put into her uterus to monitor the strength and frequency of her labor contractions. The patient later had a non-emergency C-section to deliver her child. Several months later, the patient began experiencing an uncomfortable poking and stabbing pain in her pelvic region. The patient had extreme lower abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, and urinary and bowel pain. A pelvic examination revealed that a pointy foreign object was protruding from her left vaginal wall. An ultrasound and X-ray later revealed that the foreign object was an 11.3–centimeter portion of the IUPC. The part of the IUPC was lodged in the patient’s pelvis. The patient sued the hospital for negligence claiming that the surgical team nurse had failed to properly remove the IUPC from her before her delivery.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can a patient sue a hospital if a surgical team nurse fails to remove an intrauterine pressure catheter from the patient’s pelvis before she delivers a child?

Expert Witness Response

It is widely held in the medical field that a nurse’s duty to meet the proper standard of care when assisting in surgery is an integral function of the surgical team. An intrauterine pressure catheter is used to monitor a pregnant patient’s overall labor status. The IUPC has an electronic pressure sensor that is inserted into the patient’s uterine cavity through the birth canal and cervix to monitor uterine contractions and the fetal heartbeat. Although a physician usually inserts the IUPC in the uterus, it is normally removed by a nurse prior to childbirth. After a C-section is performed, the operating room (OR) staff typically performs a sponge and instrument count to confirm that no foreign objects remain in a patient’s body. If any foreign objects remain in a patient’s body, this can cause infection, pain, and hemorrhaging. The surgical nurse in this case did not meet the proper standard of medical care because she did not inspect the IUPC to ensure that it was intact before discarding it. For the surgical nurse in this case to have met the proper standard of care, she would have had to inspect all of the operating room equipment following the C-section (including the IUPC) and report to the obstetrician if any of the equipment was not intact.

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