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Jenny Albano
Jenny Albano
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Surgical Objects Left Inside More Than 1,500 Patients In US Each Year

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Every year about 1,500 people in the United States leave the hospital after surgery with surgical objects still inside them. More than 2/3 of the objects left behind are sponges, which can lead to all sorts of problems like pain, infection, bowel obstructions, longer hospital stays, and maybe even death.

“When there is significant bleeding and a sponge is placed in a patient, it can sometimes look indistinguishable from the tissue around it. Unintentional retained sponges and instruments is a devastating complication for patients and is a national problem affecting every hospital in the country that performs invasive and surgical procedures,” said Dr. Steven DeJong, vice chair, department of surgery, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

To prevent this problem, Loyola University Medical Center is using a new technology that helps surgical teams keep track of sponges during a surgical procedure.

Each sponge has a unique bar code affixed to it that is scanned by a high-tech device to obtain a count. Before a procedure begins, the identification number of the patient and the badge of the surgical team member maintaining the count are scanned into the counter. As an added safety feature, the bar code is heat sealed into the sponge to eliminate any danger of it becoming detached during a procedure.

“We perform complex cases that we do on a frequent basis that require hundreds of sponges. Sometimes things move very fast, especially when you’re doing an operation for trauma. It’s not too hard to imagine that something might be missed,” said Jo Quetsch, RN, clinical director, surgical services at Loyola.

The system, which is FDA approved, is being used in all of Loyola’s operating rooms. As the technology grows, Loyola plans to use it to keep track of all medical equipment used during surgery.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.