Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2009 Apr;22(2):207-14. doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e328324f82d.

Improving safety in the operating room: a systematic literature review of retained surgical sponges.

Author information

  • 1Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5640, USA.



Gossypibomas are surgical sponges that are unintentionally left inside a patient during a surgical procedure. To improve this patient safety indicator, anesthesiologists will need to work with operating room personnel. This study's goal was to systematically review the literature on retained sponges to identify body location, time to discovery, methods for detection, and risk factors.


Two hundred and fifty-four gossypiboma cases (147 reports from the period 1963-2008) were identified via the National Library of Medicine's Medline and the Cochrane Library. Gossypibomas (mean patient age 49 years, range 6-92 years) were most commonly found in the abdomen (56%), pelvis (18%), and thorax (11%). Average discovery time equaled 6.9 years (SD 10.2 years) with a median (quartiles) of 2.2 years (0.3-8.4 years). The most common detection methods were computed tomography (61%), radiography (35%), and ultrasound (34%). Pain/irritation (42%), palpable mass (27%), and fever (12%) were the leading signs and symptoms, but 6% of cases were asymptomatic. Complications included adhesion (31%), abscess (24%), and fistula (20%). Risk factors were case specific (e.g. emergency) or related to the surgical environment (e.g. poor communication). Most gossypibomas occurred when the sponge count was falsely pronounced correct at the end of surgery.


More is being discovered about the patterns leading to a retained sponge. Multidisciplinary approaches and new technologies may help reduce this low frequency but clinically significant event. However, given the complexity of surgical care, eliminating retained sponges may prove elusive.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk