Method for detecting sponges left in patients

Too often, sponges are left inside of patients during surgery. Close to 40 sponges are left in patients every week throughout the United States, and foreign bodies such as this are responsible for post operative infections and other adverse medical conditions.

One hospital is being proactive concerning such mistakes by using available technology to prevent medical staff from leaving sponges behind. Besides just counting the number of sponges, each surgical sponge used by hospital staff contains a radio frequency tag that will send a signal as to the sponge location.

Locating a missing sponge can take up to 10 to 20 minutes to find on average, and while the search is ongoing the patient will need to remain under powerful anesthetics. The patient’s wound will remain open while the search is conducted, and there is always the possibility that a sponge left in the human body cannot be located.

There is good reason why medical malpractice attorneys file so many complaints where surgical mistakes have been alleged. Surgical errors often cause unnecessary pain and suffering for patients. Many such errors could easily have been avoided by implementing simple steps to immediately recognize if the danger of an error has occurred.

At the hospital mentioned above, a sort of wand is waived over the patient at the resolution of the surgery to find out if any sponge has been left behind. This wand will tell the surgeon and medical staff the exact location of each sponge.

Whether this is the most effective means in dealing with the problem with require additional study. However, at least the hospital is taking advantage of technology to come up with a workable solution. This is a far better method than hospital staff making the assumption that a mistake will not be made.

Source: Fox Atlanta, “Hospital uses new system to help prevent surgical mistakes,” by Beth Galvin, Jan. 8, 2013