Hospital uses new system to help prevent surgical mistakes

FOX Medical Team

Hospital uses new system to help prevent surgical mistakes

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ATLANTA -

When you're facing surgery, the last thing you want to think about is somebody making a mistake. A new study shows that every year, surgical teams make about 4,000 serious errors in the operating room.

Safety experts say those mistakes are preventable, and should never happen.

Surgical sponges are used to absorb blood during an operation. They are counted going in and coming back out of the patient. Researchers found that nearly 40 sponges are left inside surgical patients every week in the United States.

Atlanta Medical Center is trying to find a better way of keeping track of sponges. In operating rooms at the hospital, sponges going into and out of a patient are counted by hand.

"The minute we have an inaccurate count, the surgery stops.  And we start calling additional staff into the operating room and we start going through the trash one piece at a time," said Janie Hamilton.

Hamilton is the Director of Surgical Services at Atlanta Medical Center. She says tracking down a missing surgical sponge can take 10 to 20 minutes, sometimes longer, while the patient stays under anesthesia and the team waits to close.
    
It's why the hospital is trying a new type of sponge that could be a lot easier to find. It's called the RF Assure System, and the hospital is the first to use it. Each sponge is imbedded with a radio frequency tag, so if a sponge goes MIA, the OR team runs a wand over the patient, listening for the signal the tag gives off.
      
"We have had a situation where we knew that we had a miscount. We were able to wand the patient, tell the physician exactly where it was located in the abdominal cavity, as far as side, and he was able to go in and retrieve it," said Hamilton.

It's a small device, but Hamilton believes the little tags may make your next surgery a lot safer.

"So, I love it. I think it is the best thing that has happened in our medical health care environment today," Hamilton said.

Atlanta Medical Center is the only metro Atlanta hospital using the RF Assure Detection System to track surgical sponges. The hospital is a level one trauma hospital. When critical patients are brought in, there's not a lot of time to count and recount sponges, so the detection system serves as a backup.

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