By Andrew Liszewski
We’ve all heard or even seen the hour-long TLC specials about surgical instruments being accidentally left inside a patient. But even something as simple as a sponge can lead to a deadly infection if forgotten, and that’s why every single sponge has to be accounted for. But instead of relying on a nurse to manually count the sponges before and after an operation, the Safety-Sponge system from SurgiCount employs special bar codes printed on every sponge that are scanned into a PocketPC computer before and after they’re used.
Essentially, the system works much like a grocery store check-out counter – every laparotomy and gauze sponge is pre-labeled with an individual and unique bar code (in this instance, a 2-D data matrix label) and a scanning SurgiCounter is used to read the labels. Unlike other technologies, there is no major change in a hospital’s established AORN manual counting practices and procedures. And no other technology can offer documented time stamps of when every item was counted in and out.
Since every single sponge has a unique bar code, the system can even alert the operating room staff if the same sponge has been scanned twice. I guess as long as the special barcode-branded sponges aren’t considerably more expensive than a regular sponge, there’s no reason for a hospital not to adopt a system like this. But then again I’m not a doctor, I just pretend to be one on the internet.