New technology to prevent sponges left behind in patients

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a surgeon to leave a medical sponge behind during surgery. While surgeons and nurses try to keep track of the number of sponges and gauzes they put in a patient, there is large room for error.

Sometimes, surgical teams will realize that a sponge is missing and keep a patient under while they search for it. Other times, they will miscount and let the patient go with the sponge or gauze still inside of him or her.

Now, there is a promising solution to prevent these types of surgical mistakes.

A new type of medical sponge allows doctors to know where the sponge is during and after surgery. These sponges are equipped with RFID chips, which allow medical professionals to find them by simply waving a wand over the surgery patient’s body.

“We’re extremely excited about bringing this technology to market and believe that it’s really going to improve patient safety across the U.S.,” David Palmer, the CEO of the company that created the sponge, ClearCount Medical Solutions, said.

According to a report in the Journal of Robotic Surgery, there is a surgical item left in a patient in at least one in 1,500 abdominal or chest procedures. This has caused additional surgeries (and medical costs), serious infections and even death. Patients injured by objects left in them during surgery can bring medical malpractice suits to hold the surgery team (and sometimes the hospital) accountable for the error.

The RFID sponge is an easy-to-use technology. While the sponges are expensive, they could reduce medical malpractice lawsuits and, more importantly, save lives.

Source: Fox News, “Wireless Technology Prevents Medical Errors,” Jason M. Vaughn, Apr. 30, 2012.