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Technology Employed to Reduce Instances of Retained Items

Retained items are a serious issue — in large part because such events are utterly unnecessary, and yet so common. In the medical world, sponges account for 70 percent of retained surgical items. In fact, sponges are so often miscounted or forgotten, that new technologies are being developed in an attempt to decrease the frequency of such events.

Leaving a sponge (or anything that is not supposed to be left behind) inside a patient is a big no-no. This is considered a “never event” and as the name implies, it should never happen. New technologies are helping to ensure that human errors (including simple counting mistakes) that result in patients being hurt are decreased.

Implementing systems of support

At Lutheran Medical Center in Colorado, radio-frequency identification systems have been implemented in an attempt to employ technology as a secondary detection method for retained sponges. The system uses an underbody mat that is laid out underneath the patient, and, if necessary, a RFID wand that can be waved over a patient. Both items can be activated to scan the patient’s body in search of missing sponges.

Teams at the University of Michigan Health System use a barcode identification system to count sponges prior to surgery. After the operation, the sponges are scanned in once more, and the count is displayed for medical staff to see.

The positive change is far too isolated

Both systems have resulted in decreases in incidents of retained surgical items. Now, at the University of Michigan Health System, any sponges retained in a patient are considered an inexcusable misstep — even if they are detected and removed before the patient leaves the hospital.

This attitude should be the rule, and not the exception.

Retained sponges (or clips or needles, etc.) can cause years of abdominal pain and abscesses for the patients who are unfortunate enough to be treated by a neglectful surgical staff. No patient should be faced with such unnecessary pain, especially over such an extended period of time. Medical professionals should be eliminating pain, not causing it.

Never events are almost always the result of carelessness on the part of medical professionals.

Never events speak for themselves — they should never occur in the first place

The United States health system costs significantly more than the health systems in other countries, and yet it continues to perform worse than countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

At The Eisen Law Firm, we believe that never events cannot be tolerated. We want to hold the U.S. health system to higher standards — standards by which retained items post-surgery are seen as the unacceptable events they are. Standards that push hospitals to innovate and problem-solve, so that human error is eliminated whenever possible.

If you or someone you love has experienced a never event, or were harmed by medical negligence, The Eisen Law Firm can help. Our experienced malpractice attorneys will talk through your options for legal action and for receiving the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online today.