Gauze left inside female patient’s breast during mastectomy at St. Teresa’s Hospital


16th September 2020 – (Hong Kong) A medical accident occurred in St. Teresa’s Hospital in which gauze was left inside the breast of a female patient. After a 40-year-old female patient underwent a left mastectomy on 18th July, the nurse in the operating room found a missing gauze when counting the surgical tools. She suspected that it was left inside the patient’s body, the doctor then arranged an X-ray examination for the patient to confirm that the surgical gauze was left in the breast wound. As a result, the patient had to take out the gauze via another surgery.

The hospital failed to notify the Department of Health of the incident within the specified time, and the Department issued a letter. St. Teresa’s Hospital stated that after the female patient had completed the left mastectomy, the nurse in the operating room found that a gauze was missing, and immediately contacted the attending doctor. The doctor then arranged for the female patient to undergo an X-ray examination and found that the gauze remained in the body.

The doctor then performed local anaesthesia and removed the gauze for the patient. The operation went smoothly and the patient was discharged on the 20th of the same month. The hospital stated that it had immediately followed up and reviewed the gauze counting procedure during the operation and would strengthen the counting work to avoid similar incidents. The hospital said it regretted the incident and extended apology to the patient. The Department of Health stated that on 20th July, it received a notification from St. Teresa’s Hospital of the aforementioned medical risk alert. After reviewing the report submitted by the hospital, the Department of Health found no evidence showing that the hospital violated the Cap. 165 Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Maternity Homes Registration Ordinance or the Code of Practice.

However, the Department of Health alleged that the hospital had delayed reporting the incident to the Department of Health, violating the “Code of Practice” that requires notification within 24 hours after the incident. The Department has issued a regulatory letter to the hospital. So far this year, the Department of Health has received a total of two medical risk warning incidents reported by private hospitals.