New Tool Could Prevent Surgery Mistakes

New York -- Going in for surgery is a scary proposition under just about anycircumstance, and to make matters worse, a patient may also experiencean avoidable post-surgical complication.

New technologies can now minimize potentially deadly surgical mistakes that leave instruments and sponges behind.

During an operation, hundreds of implements and sponges may be used.Keeping track of every last one is paramount to the safety of thepatient.

"Every sponge, every instrument, every scalpel blade is open-countedbefore the procedure starts, and is counted again at the end of theprocedure to make sure that everything that was there is still there,"said Dr. Paul LoVerme, surgery chairman at UMC Mountainside.

But Marna Gold had a different experience. Something went wrong with that implement accountability after her surgical procedure.

"I didn't understand why I would have lumps after a hysterectomy," Gold said.

Gold continued to experience pain, and ran a high fever. It waseventually discovered that sponges were left in her body after hersurgery and she would need another operation to remove them.

"I had inside of me two pads that they had overlooked," Gold said."The hospital where I had the surgery didn't see the pads; didn't countthe pads."

Gold made a full recovery after that, and now there is new technology to help prevent something like this from happening again.

Sponges are being fitted with a radio frequency chip. After surgery,doctors will use a wand over the patient, and check for an RF signal ofone that may have been left behind.

The new procedure is currently being used in 16 area hospitals, including Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

There are also other technologies and tools for tracking surgicalinstruments. Different RF technology can track instruments that may getleft behind, and in another development, a simple plastic case canvisually account for other surgical items.

But surgeons still have to pay attention, experts said.

"None of the technological adjuncts substitute for the surgeon'srole," said Dr. Verna Gibbs. "The surgeon has to do a wound examinationbefore they begin to close."

Gibbs is herself a surgeon, and also the director of a NationalSurgical Safety Project. She said there is a place for technology, butis still in favor of simple bags that can easily account for all spongesused, and keep the surgical staff engaged with proper countingtechniques.

"We consider them adjuncts, which is an add-on or an additionalpractice or something that you can use in addition to having a manualpractice," Gibbs said.

It is estimated that the cost of the RF technology will add about $10 to the cost of a surgery.

CBS News


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