Surgical sponges now equipped with bar codes to prevent injuries

In order to better prevent surgical errors, a bar code reader is now being put to use in the medical industry to help make sure that any surgical sponges used during operations are not left in the bodies of patients after the procedures.

Some mistakes during surgery are inevitable, but negligence from nurses and doctors in Illinois and throughout the entire U.S. can also create serious health problems for patients, including pain, injury or even a fatal infection. One common surgical mistake that can lead to serious or fatal injuries is the loss of a surgical tool or sponge inside the body of a patient. Now, some hospitals and medical facilities are using a bar code scanning system called SurgiCount to help prevent medical staff from making these types of dangerous mistakes.

This system can help to prevent or significantly reduce surgical errors because a bar code is placed on each wrapped bag of sponges, and each sponge also has a bar code to help medical personnel keep track of each item used during an operation. As the items are removed during a procedure, the items are scanned and counted.

The system was developed in 2009 and used by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The hospital wanted to focus on eliminating surgical errors caused by negligence. Since being used at the hospital, no sponge in more than one million sponges used during operations has been accidentally left in a patient.

Each year, roughly one in 6,000 patients discovers that a surgical sponge has been left inside of them after surgery. This number is expected to decrease as more hospitals begin to use the bar code scanning process, which doctors say does not impede the speed at which surgery can be completed. A simple scan while a nurse also manually counts the sponges is all it takes, according one doctor.

Source: The Mankato Free Press, “Bar coding sponges safeguards against surgery mishaps,” Robb Murray, March 16, 2012


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