Surgical teams have for decades resorted to manually counting sponges, needles, scissors, retractors for opening surgical sites, and other devices used during operations prior to the conclusion of the procedure. Sometimes there are more than a hundred. But to better avoid medical errors, the University of Michigan has devisedbarcode sponges. Barcodes are scanned when sponges are worn and scanned again when removed from the body. If there is a discrepancy in the bill, the surgeon knows to look in the surgical area. According to experts, sponges are the objects that most often remain inside the body after surgery.
On the other hand, the University of Michigan has started using X-rays to find lost objects while the patient is still in the operating room. TheX-rays can identify metal objects and also soft items. In addition, the new barcode sponges contain a radiation opaque label that allows the radiologist to see it in the X-ray.
At the moment it seems that the method is working, since in the operating rooms at the University of Michigan Health System, the UM Cardiovascular Center, and the CS Mott Children’s Hospital, which are part of the initiative to prevent Withheld surgical items, there have been no such incidents in the last year. The researchers hope to extend it to other hospitals.