Department stores use tiny radio frequency chips on merchandise to make sure it is not stolen. Now surgeons are using similar technology to make sure surgical sponges are not left in a patient.
In a recent experiment, surgeons added radio frequency chips to surgical sponges, and then implanted them into patients during surgery. Another surgeon, who had not seen where the sponges were placed, then waved a wand over the patient to detect the location of the sponges.
In every case, all the sponges were detected within three seconds. Experts say there is still room for human error, however this study shows this technology may drastically reduce the number of sponges left in patients.
Right now the current method for keeping track of sponges is counting them before, during and after surgery. For long surgeries, some hospitals may give the patient an x-ray before they go to post-op. There were eight participants in the trial. Two of the lead authors have financial ties to the company that makes the sponges and wand.