A Middleton woman is suing three doctors, Valley Regional Hospital, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority after a surgical device called a SurgiFish viscera retainer was discovered in her abdomen nearly six years after she had a C-section.

According to a claim filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the woman gave birth to a baby girl in May 2016 and “continued to experience medical complications for years.”

“After undergoing various treatments and procedures, including a hysterectomy in 2016,” continues the claim, the woman still experienced “excessive bleeding and severe pain” and so received a CT scan in November 2018. The scan showed a foreign object in her abdomen, which “Dr. Michael Dunn, the radiologist who completed the scan, suggested that it could be ‘an appliance from previous hernia repair.'”

The woman “tried to get it removed as soon as possible but scheduling issues caused a delay,” and it wasn’t until March 2022 that a surgery was performed. “It was determined that the object in question was a SurgiFish viscera retainer, used in C-sections.”

The claim names Dr. Gregory Tynski, an obstetrics/gynaecology surgeon, and operating room assistants Dr. Pierre Lessard and Dr. David MacFarlane.

“Dr. Tynski, Dr. Lessard, and Dr. MacFarlane knew or ought to have known that the use of their abovementioned negligence exposed the Plaintiff to risks of physical injury and serious harm,” reads the claim.

The woman claims the following injuries:

• severe scarring in her abdomen;
• a volvulus;
• damage to her stomach and surrounding tissues, resulting in gastroparesis and
complications with digestive functions;
• severe pain;
• psychological trauma;
• and other conditions.

She seeks damages for pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, loss of valuable services including ‘housekeeping,’ and costs of care and medical expenses, as well as interest, punitive damages, and court costs.

She is represented by Angeli Swinamer of MacGillivray Law.

The claims have not been tested in court, and neither the doctors, the hospital, or Nova Scotia Health have yet to file defences.

The leaving of the SurgiFish Viscera Retainer in patients bodies is such a problem that it is the subject of considerable research and has been addressed in academic and health care publications.

For example, a patient health bulletin written by Dr. John Kortbeek and published by Alberta Health Services lays out the problem as follows:


A viscera retainer may be used to facilitate difficult closures of abdominal wounds. There have been instances in which a SurgiFish® Viscera Retainer remained in a patient’s abdomen post closure.

Potential contributing factors include:
• The yellow colour of the SurgiFish is very similar to the color of adipose tissue, and its planar shape means it may slide into the wound. Both contribute to making the SurgiFish difficult or impossible to see.
• The SurgiFish does not have an attached retrieval device that remains outside the body and serves as a visual cue to its presence, at closure.
• The use of a SurgiFish® may not be consistently documented on the surgical count sheet due to its introduction near the end of the procedure.
• The SurgiFish® may be “cut to size” which may confuse the surgical count.

“Unfortunately, there are no viscera retainer devices available in Canada with external visual cues and retrieval mechanisms,” writes Kortbeek.

Kortbeek suggests the following actions to prevent the loss of the implement:

• Surgeons to ensure either a prolene suture or a surgical instrument, such as a snap, are attached to the SurgiFish® prior to placement inside the abdomen. The suture or surgical instrument will serve as a visual reminder of the SurgiFish® in the surgical field.
• Operating Room nurses ensure the SurgiFish® is added to the surgical count sheet once given to the surgical team. Nurses should be aware that the “cut to size” process may result in the more pieces than originally counted in.

One medical equipment supplier sells a simple ring that is attached to the SurgiFish and left outside the body during surgery to alert doctors to the presence of the implement.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. That poor woman! I’ll bet her hysterectomy wasn’t necessary, but a response to the alien thing. And the having to wait an additional 4 yrs to have it removed. Really awful and shocking.

  2. The time from confirming it was in there til getting it out?!? That’s abhorrent in itself!!