A large study estimated that a foreign object is left in patients after one of 10,000 surgical procedures involving open cavities, with two-thirds of the objects being surgical sponges, according to background information in the article.

Alex Macario, M.D., M.B.A., Stanford University School of Medicine, Calif., and colleagues tested a 1.5-pound battery-powered handheld scanning device on eight patients undergoing elective abdominal or pelvic surgery. Before each patient's wound was closed, one surgeon placed a tagged or untagged sponge inside the patient while the other surgeon looked away. The edges of the wound were pulled together to cover the inside of the abdominal cavity and the second surgeon used the wand to determine the existence and placement of the tagged sponge. The surgeons and nurses who used the device took a survey about their experience afterward.

The wand detected the tagged sponges 100 percent of the time in an average of less than 3 seconds. There were no false positives - meaning the wand did not indicate there was a tagged sponge in the cavity when there was not - and no false negatives, meaning that the want did not fail to detect sponges that were placed. Surgeons and nurses said the device was easy to use and could improve patient safety, but gave it lower marks for efficiency and requested a smaller version. They also expressed concern that human error could interfere with the system's effectiveness.

If such a device were to be used in the operating room, "the surgical team will remain responsible for inspecting the surgical site and avoiding retained foreign bodies," the authors write. "Technologies to increase safety in the operating room, such as the radiofrequency identification wand device described in this article, deserve further study to assess if they should be added to manual counting (rather than replace it).”

MEDICA.de; Source: JAMA and Archives Journals