Why won’t GA hospitals adopt sponge detection technology?

Detection technology could protect patents from retained sponges but hospitals won’t buy it.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently stated that during a 10-year period, there were 26.8 million surgeries performed in the United States. While surgery has become an almost commonplace event for people living in Rome and elsewhere, it is not completely without risk.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins in 2012 revealed that mistakes in the surgery room happen every day. Many of these errors are referred to as "never events" because the existing standards should prevent them from occurring. In fact, looking at a period of over 20 years, reports show that, on average, 4,000 of these events occur each year. Furthermore, researchers believe that the numbers are much higher since hospitals are not required to report these types of errors. Among the many types of preventable errors that occur is the retaining of surgical sponges.

Forgotten sponges

Surgical sponges are used to absorb bodily fluids so that the surgeon can see better inside the operation site. During an average surgery, dozens of these sponges are used, and according to USA Today, surgical staff generally rely on a manual count to make sure that all of the sponges are removed when the operation is complete.

The problem is that the sponges, which are white when inserted, have soaked up blood and other things and taken on the appearance of body tissue. If a staff member makes an error in the manual count, the sponge(s) will be left inside the body. Over time, the sponge becomes attached to organs and tissue, eventually causing an infection that can become fatal if the problem is not found.

Detection technology

In recent years, technology companies have created a couple of different systems that could eliminate the problem of retained sponges. In one system, each sponge is inserted with a sensor that emits a signal when a scanner is passed over the area. Before the operation site is closed, staff can use the scanner to locate sponges that may have been missed. A hospital in Indiana decided to install the system after experiencing a rise in problems with retained sponges. Since the hospital began using the technology, its error rate has gone down to zero.

Despite success stories such as these, only about 15 percent of hospitals throughout the nation have welcomed the technology. Many claim that the expense of using the system is too high but when divided by the number of surgeries performed, the added cost per surgery is around $8.

Patients in Rome and elsewhere have the right to be protected from unnecessary medical errors. Fortunately, victims can pursue appropriate compensation and they may find it of benefit to meet with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.