Is There An Easy Way To Detect Sponges Left Behind In Surgery

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Patients in New Jersey can be very nervous before a surgical procedure. But we are often reassured that we are in good hands and that everything is expected to go well. Many times, this is the case. But unfortunately, there are many cases when a surgery does not go as expected; and all because of a preventable surgical error.

These errors consist of foreign objects being left in a patient’s body cavity after a procedure and it is more common of a problem than many people realize. Thousands of people are victims of this surgical error and suffer the health and medical complications of having a foreign object in their body. And according to reports, surgical sponges are most often the item that doctors failed to remove before closing up a patient. 

When a sponge is left inside a patient, it can quickly get infected and make a person very ill. That person often needs to go in for more surgeries to identify the problem and have the sponge removed. It can be a very painful, expensive and frustrating process.

But some patient safety advocates argue that none of this would have to happen if hospitals across the country would invest in technology that would help them identify a misplaced or forgotten sponge. Many facilities rely on simply counting the number of sponges that are used during an operation. Unfortunately, counting errors have been reported in as many as 15 percent of these cases.

That is why people are pushing hospitals to use a system of barcoded sponges. With this system, each sponge is tagged with a unique barcode. After a procedure, the doctor or nurse waves a wand over the area and if an undetected sponge is still in there, the wand beeps. While it is reportedly an effective system that costs less than $10 per procedure, only 15 percent of hospitals currently use this method.

The fact that there may be a relatively cheap and easy solution to such a widespread problem may be very frustrating for victims of this type of surgical error. But in many cases, these victims are able to file a medical malpractice claim against a facility for negligence. Not only can a claim result in compensation for the victim, but it can also shed some light on a safety concern that must be addressed.

Source: The Huffington Post, “The Nauseating Mistake Hospitals Make and the $10 Fix They Scrimp on,” Leah Binder, Nov. 13, 2013

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