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Bar-coded sponges suggested as solution in foreign object cases

Hospitals in Maryland are filled with protocol for a very specific, important reason. That reason is that the lives of patients are in the hands of the doctors and medical staff. Failure to accurately update a chart might mean that the doctor on the next shift doesn't have the necessary information to treat the patient. A surgeon that doesn't scrub his or her hands for the required amount of time could cause a post-op infection that complicates the patient's recovery.

After a surgery, the operating room team is required to make sure that every piece of equipment that made it into the room is accounted for after the procedure is complete. Why? With everything that goes on during a procedure, leaving a foreign object, often a sponge, in the body of a patient is a very real risk and the damage can even prove fatal for the patient.

A surgical error such as this one is considered by health-care quality experts -- and most likely the patients as well -- to be a never event. It is literally an event that should never occur. Yet, this type of medical malpractice happens more often than we might think.

For an error that is considered to be absolutely preventable, the fact that a Mayo Clinic study covering data from 2003 to 2006 found that this happens in approximately one in every 5,500 surgeries is simply shocking. Another study found that when the total number of cases that occur per year is averaged out, it comes down to over five retained foreign object cases arising per day across the United States.

These shocking statistics weren't reported online in Bloomberg Businessweek without a proposed solution. A medical-device company called Stryker recently acquired Patient Safety Technologies, a business that offers a bar-coded system for tracking sponges. By scanning them before they are used and electronically counting them, hospitals could eliminate much of the human error involved in an inaccurate count.

Being told that your health or that of a loved one's has been compromised by a surgeon who left a sponge, a scissors or other surgical tool in the body during a procedure can add emotional injury the physical and financial ones that have already been suffered.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Can Technology Stop Surgeons From Leaving Sponges Inside Patients?" John Tozzi, March 25, 2014

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Michael H. Bereston, Inc.
138 Main Street, Suite 200
P.O. Box 2990
Annapolis, MD 21401

Maryland: 410-793-4554
Toll Free: 866-517-4037
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