New Tech Tracks Things Left Behind

Chips, bar codes keep surgeons from leaving sponges in patients
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2008 2:12 PM CST
Surgical sponges are the items most frequently left in patients erroneously and can potentially cause deadly infections.    (
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(Newser) – Hospitals are turning to technology to cut down on incidents of doctors sewing up surgical patients with sponges and other items left inside, the Chicago Tribune reports. A bar-coding system to ensure what goes in comes back out is one solution; another involves tagging items with chips that allow them to be detected with a radio-frequency wand.

A 2003 study reported that one in every 1,000-1,500 operations left the patient with more than just a scar as a souvenir; the $50,000 price tag to remove a foreign object and treat infection is steep, and it pales in comparison to millions awarded in malpractice lawsuits. The tracking tags, meanwhile, run just $50-$60 per surgery. (Read more surgery stories.)