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Automated System Keeps Tabs on Surgical Sponges

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 25 Aug 2021
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Image: The SurgiCount+ Safety-Sponge System is placed on a cart for greater maneuverability (Photo courtesy of Stryker)
Image: The SurgiCount+ Safety-Sponge System is placed on a cart for greater maneuverability (Photo courtesy of Stryker)
An automatic counting system assists operating room (OR) teams keep a running tally of surgical sponges, resulting in fewer “never events”.

The Stryker (Kalamazoo, MI, USA) SurgiCount+ Safety-Sponge System is based on UHF radiofrequency identification (RFID) tagged sponges that enable unique identification of each sponge, eliminating false-correct, duplicate, or unknown counts. In addition, each sponge pack has a unique master tag barcode containing data for all the sponges within, which enables quick updates and counting of packed sponges. Each individual sponge also includes not only a barium strip for x-ray identification, but also radiopaque threads for added safety.

A wireless reader and an intuitive, user-friendly touch-screen tablet interface are used for scanning, counting, and finding sponges in the OR, triggering an audible and visual recognition cue for each item scanned. A digital ledger notes time, type, and ID of each sponge, with real-time reconciliations throughout the case, prohibiting duplicate counts of the same sponge and unwarranted counting of random sponges not related to the procedure. The SurgiCount+ system also connects to the hospital electronic medical record (EMR) for final reconciliation and permanent record of complete removal.

“Stryker is collaborating with surgical teams across the country to create safer ORs and equip healthcare providers with the tools needed to avoid retained surgical sponges,” said Mike Carlin, vice president and general manager of Surgical Technologies at Stryker. “We want healthcare providers to know they can count on us to make zero retained surgical sponges the expectation and reality and provide certainty when they need it most.”

Sponges are the number one retained item during surgery, occurring on average 11 times a day in the United States alone. Such so-called medical ‘never events’ can have catastrophic implications for patients, healthcare professionals, and medical care providers. Although most patients experience only temporary injury, permanent injury occurs in about a third of the cases, with 6.6% of such cases resulting in death.

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