Ma Van Nhat looked at his car. He felt a little dizzy, but overall his body didn’t hurt. The traffic accident could have been much worse. However, the 56-year-old Vietnamese citizen from Bac Kan province went to the hospital just in case. That decision ended up saving his life and revealed a doctor’s mistake nearly two decades old.
While filling out paperwork at the hospital, Ma noted recent pain around his stomach. Painkillers did not quell the problem and doctors thought Nhat might have an ulcer. After a series of negative results, they took an ultrasound of Ma’s stomach. The results suggested a large, sharp object located just to the left of his stomach. A second ultrasound a few weeks later proved more conclusive. It clearly showed a 6-inch pair of surgical scissors lying on his colon. For additional clarity, the doctors took an x-ray.
The 56-year-old stated that he had surgery 18 years ago, but no operations since. In 1998, following another car accident, Nhat went under the knife at Bac Kan General Hospital. During that operation, the surgeon accidentally left the scissors inside the patient. While hospital administrators scrambled to find out more about Nhat’s 1998 operation, specialists from Hanoi flew into Thai Nguyen province for an emergency operation to remove the scissors.
The three-hour surgery took place at the ironically named Cast-Iron and Steel Hospital. Assisted by local surgeons, the doctors successfully removed the scissors. The handles were rusty and the surgical instrument had become stuck to multiple organs. Without the fortuitous discovery of the internal object, Nhat likely would have suffered organ failure within five years.
Ma Van Nhat should make a complete recovery. In the meantime, the Ministry of Health launched a full investigation into Bac Kan General Hospital to discover the surgeon responsible for leaving the scissors inside a patient. However, there is little chance to resolve the issue because medical records are purged every 15 years at most hospitals in Vietnam.