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Sponge tracking technology may save lives

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2015 | Surgical Errors |

According to a study by Johns Hopkins, sponges are left inside patients on average 39 times a week in the U.S. This can lead to serious infection, extended stays in the hospital, further surgeries and even death. New York patients are not immune to this serious issue. To combat the problem, Fox News reports that some hospitals are implementing a new type of sponge tracking technology that will help them determine if they have left any potentially deadly sponges inside surgical patients.

Sponges are a necessary part of most surgeries. Surgeons and other hospital workers use them to clear the surgical site of bodily fluids, most often blood, so they can properly see the area as they work. Traditionally, hospitals have used counting methods to determine how many sponges are used on a patient and thus how many need to be accounted for prior to closing the surgical site. One or two nurses are usually responsible for this task, but even with two separate individuals taking separate tallies multiple times throughout a surgery, errors occur.

The new technology, Fox News reports, combines the traditional sponge or towel with a radio frequency tracking device so its location can easily be tracked. When the count has been performed, and the doctor is ready to close the site, nurses simply wave a wand over the patient to determine if there are any sponges that need to be identified and removed. The wand picks up on the RFID chip in any remaining sponges and notifies the nurse that there is a problem. No site is closed until the missing sponges are found, so patients are more likely to come away from surgery without experiencing a retained sponge and its potentially life-altering consequences.