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Tracking Tag May Prevent Retained Sponges After Surgery

Chips may prevent surgeons from inadvertently leaving sponges inside patients

MONDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Surgical sponges with embedded radiofrequency identification tags may help surgeons reduce the chances of inadvertently leaving a sponge inside a patient, according to a study in the July issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Alex Macario, M.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., and colleagues placed untagged sponges and sponges with an attached 20-mm diameter radiofrequency identification chip in eight patients who underwent abdominal or pelvic surgery. One surgeon placed an untagged sponge (one per patient) and 28 tagged sponges in patients and closed the wound edges. A second, blinded surgeon used a wand-scanning device to detect the sponges prior to closure.

The wand device detected 100 percent of the sponges in less than three seconds with no false positives or false negatives, the report indicates. Surgeons and nurses gave the device high ratings for ease of use and its ability to improve patient safety.

The new technology may have some limitations. "For example, if the scan is performed incorrectly…retained sponges can be missed," the study authors write. Sponges can also be missed if a scan occurs too early in the operation and a sponge is placed in the wound to help with closure.

The device used in the study was developed by ClearCount Medical Solutions, Inc. in Pittsburgh. Two of the study authors work at the company and own patents related to the device.

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