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J Pediatr Surg. 2009 Apr;44(4):738-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2008.07.025.

Retained foreign bodies during surgery in pediatric patients: a national perspective.

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  • 1Division of Otolaryngology, Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC 20010, USA.



Attention has been placed on surgical and medical errors, though there is a lack of data on the frequency of some complications.


International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, code 998.4 and E code 871.0 were used to search a database from the United States.


In the Kids' Inpatient Database 2003, there were 103 reports of retained foreign bodies after surgery (incidence, 0.0031%) with a mean age of 11.5 years. There was a wide range between the 36 states sampled. Total charges for a patient with this complication are $56,683 (95% confidence interval, $41,327-$72,039); mean length of stay is 10.5 days. There is an increased charge of $42,077 in patients who have this complication (P < .0001). Of the cases, 74% occurred at teaching institutions.


On a national perspective in the United States, the rate of a retained foreign body is 0.0031% or approximately 1 in 32,672 cases and is associated with an increased charge of $42,077 for this complication. Comparative data demonstrate that pediatric surgery in the United States is exceptionally safe with regard to retained foreign bodies.

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