Reducing Retained Foreign Objects In The OR Via Technology

One of the biggest nightmares the OR team can face is of retained foreign objects. Sponges, tiny needles, and even towel clips can be left inside the body especially during abdominal surgeries. Left unnoticed, this could create bowel perforations, internal bleeding, and even death. More than 2,000 incidents of retained foreign objects happen each year in the United States alone even though it is a highly preventable occurrence.

Perhaps the best way to prevent this disaster from happening is frequent counting by the nurses of the supplies used. As a backup, most instruments are radio opaque and sponges have a radio opaque string so that in worst-case scenarios, these instruments can be seen by an X-ray and located.

Technology though is giving this problem a solution. Radio Frequency or RF technology is slowly being incorporated into the creation of surgical instruments. You may be familiar with this technology perhaps with ID cards without any visible magnetic strips. Just wave your card over a scanner and you are allowed through. These ID cards have RF chips inside them that are detected in the scanner and provide the system information as to who you are.

Reducing Retained Foreign Objects In The OR RF chips can now be inserted into surgical instruments and be detected easily by a scanner too. Coupled with standard counting by nurses, a wave of a scanning wand before closure of the patient in surgery ensures that there is nothing foreign left inside. A beep will tell you there may be something and perhaps even identify what that object may be. It improves the efficiency of the OR team and saves time by not having to call the radiologic team to assist in scanning for a missing gauze.

After all, one of the nurse’s primary roles is to be an advocate of the patient. As long as there is a missing instrument or supply, there is a large possibility that it may be left inside the patient and that is something that alarms not only the nurse, but the rest of the OR team. This technology especially reduces the errors in highly complicated surgeries needing many instruments.

Technology is helping the patient always be safe. It is helping to improve the health care team’s level of care and to help them avoid errors. Not only does this save the hospital the trouble of litigation but also improves the overall well-being of the patient knowing that there are no scissors left inside him after surgery.

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