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Retained Sponges= Malpractice

Posted Nov 23 2010 12:00am
UW surgery and residents
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A southeast Texas jury awarded $4 million to a man who had a left inside him after a procedure in 2008. The man had surgery in December 2008 to have his gallbladder removed. A few months later he was rushed back to the hospital with severe stomach pain, the suit said, where it was discovered that a sponge had been left inside his abdomen. From Kayla Bell,of the Victoria Advocate .

Retained surgical sponges and instruments are a hot bed for litigation.  Luckily medical companies are working to help us double check human efforts.  Clearcount Medical Solutions has created a SmartWand and SmartSponge system that can augment manual sponge counts.  An (radiofrequency identification) chip is placed in each sponge providing a unique id for each.

Before each surgery, the sponges are scanned.  The system calculates the “in” count. As each sponge is removed from the field they are placed into the SmartBucket which automatically calculates the “out” count. At the end of the case, and discrepancy will be displayed in the “find” column.

This system helps to eliminate x-rays costs associated with efforts to locate missing sponges too.  Obviously it is also expected to minimize or eliminate patient complications from retained sponges as well as the risk of costly litigation.

As a legal nurse consultant, many times I am charged with reviewing OR records to determine where the breakdown occurred.  Don’t show up in my records review, please.  Take extra special care with surgical counts and consider asking your facility about adding a system like the one noted above.

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