The gauze sponges are believed to have been left behind from a previous cesarean section

By Caroline Redmond
February 22, 2018 04:39 PM

A 42-year-old woman entered a clinic complaining of persistent bloating and shockingly discovered that two surgical sponges were left in her body for at least six years.

In a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine published on Wednesday, the unidentified woman complained of bloating for three years and checked into a primary care clinic in Japan to receive treatment.

According to CNN, upon further inspection a CT scan revealed that two neglected surgical sponges were left inside of her abdomen. The patient underwent a laparotomy, which revealed that the sponges had attached themselves to two separate structures in her abdomen and after the masses were cut open, the sponges were encased in “thick, fibrous walls.”

The sponges are suspected to have been left behind during one of her previous cesarean sections, one she had done six years ago and the other nine years ago — it is unclear during which surgery the sponges were left.


According to Dr. Takeshi Kondo, a general medicine physician at Chiba University Hospital and lead author of the report, the doctor who performed the patient’s surgeries is not taking responsibility.

“The patient received two C-sections in the same gynecologic clinic,” Kondo said. “Although she met the surgeon and told him about the retained foreign bodies, the surgeon did not admit his mistake on the ground of lack of clear proof.”

Kondo also added that while many Japanese hospitals and clinics perform imaging of the abdomen before closing up in order to prevent events such as this, not all of them do.

After the sponges were removed from the patient, her symptoms cleared and she left the clinic less than a week later.

A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that approximately 70% of items that are left inside patients are sponges. The other 30% is comprised of surgical instruments like clamps or retractors.