Discovering that you have an unwanted surgical device or piece of medical equipment inside of your body after surgery is a nightmare scenario for any patient, and a new study published by the New England Journal of Medicine finds that this nightmare might be all too common in the United States.

According to the study, approximately 1,500 patients are left with a tool or piece of equipment inside of them after surgery. Such “souvenirs” can lead to serious injury or even death; in fact, medical mistakes are one of the leading causes of death in the nation, with nearly 100,000 fatalities attributable to such errors. In most cases, the main reason for these surgical souvenirs can be traced to physician oversight, such as a surgeon who is rushed or distracted during the procedure.

Patients are encouraged to be their own advocates during any hospital stay by asking questions, taking notes and demanding accountability from all healthcare professionals.

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