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Lynne Kerrigan
The Veterinary Nurse, Vol. 4, Iss. 1, 25 Feb 2013, pp 22 - 27

A surprising number of foreign bodies may be inadvertently left in tissues after surgery, including suture material, needles, surgical instruments, starch powder from gloves, fragments of lint and gauze swabs. In particular, the problem of the retained gauze swab is well recognised in human surgery, perhaps not surprisingly as there are so many used in each procedure. The inflammatory reaction to a retained gauze swab is called gossypiboma - from the Latin word gossypium in reference to the cotton fibres of the swab and the Swahili word boma meaning 'place of concealment'. Gossypibomas occur because there is a failure to account for all the swabs used during a surgical procedure. Depending on the proximity to vital structures and the degree of associated inflammation and infection, the consequences of a retained surgical swab can range from abscess or fistula formation to life-threatening septicaemia or tumour formation. The veterinary nurse assisting in theatre has a vital role to play in minimising the incidence of retained items via surgical counting, good trolley management and effective communication.

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