A woman had to have open-heart surgery after doctors left a wire in her chest for 4 years

  • A 47-year old woman went to the hospital with chest pain and shortness of breath.

  • When she arrived, doctors discovered a wire that had been left behind from a previous surgery four years ago.

  • The woman had to undergo open-heart surgery to extract the wire.

When a 47-year-old woman showed up to the hospital in the United Arab Emirates with shortness of breath, chest pain and swelling in her feet and legs, doctors suspected something might be wrong with her heart.

But the cause of this woman's distress ended up being much rarer, a case report published Wednesday in the American Journal of Case Reports documents.

An ultrasound identified a blood clot in the right side of her heart. The condition, known as a right atrial thrombus, is extremely rare and can be deadly.

But even more unexpected was what appeared on her X-ray: a thin wire snaking from the right side of her heart all the way down to her abdomen.

This patient had a wire in her for four years

It turns out, the woman had surgery to remove her gallbladder in 2018 — and the wire had been inside her since then.

A typical gallbladder removal involves making a six-inch incision along the right side of the abdomen, just below the ribs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One potential complication that can happen after the procedure is developing an infection known as an abscess, which is what happened to this woman.

To treat the infection, doctors brought her to the ICU and inserted a central venous catheter, also called a central line or CVC.

One technique to insert a CVC involves the use of a guidewire, a metallic cord roughly the size of dental floss that doctors use to guide the catheter to the correct location. This is an extremely common technique, and the wire is removed upon completion of the procedure.

But this is where this woman's doctors made an error: Rather than removing the guidewire following the procedure, they mistakenly left it in.

Lost guidewire is extremely rare, but can be fatal

Loss of a guidewire is "an exceedingly rare complication," the case report's authors wrote. They said that it is usually found either "immediately after the procedure" or during routine follow-up weeks or months later — not years.

Left unattended, however, it can be fatal.

"In the present case, we do not have an idea of how the guidewire had gone unnoticed for 4 years," write the report's authors, who also noted that the original procedure was done outside of the UAE.

A major surgery was needed to correct the error

To correct the issue, and save the patient's life, she needed to undergo open heart surgery. During the procedure, the doctors removed the "huge" clot from the right side of her heart — which they determined to be caused by the lost guidewire — then they set to work removing the wire itself.

Removing the wire was a difficult and delicate task, as was noted in the case report. Doctors found the upper part of the wire lodged in one of the major veins running up into the patient's heart. Although they removed as much as possible, it was impossible to safely remove all of the wire.

The authors of the case report said they wanted to shine a light on this case because it didn't have to happen. This medical emergency "could have been avoided if all preventative measures were taken," they wrote.

Although the authors don't know for sure how the mistake came about, they speculate that perhaps a distraction, lack of training or overwork during the initial abscess removal led to the mistake.

Despite not being able to remove the entirety of the wire, the woman has since recovered with no additional complications.

Read the original article on Insider