Leaving a sponge, needle or other item in a patient after completing surgery is every surgeon’s fear. Until now, many operating room staffs relied on the very low-tech method of counting and recounting the sponges, needles, blades, retractors, or other items used during operations.

But researchers at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor developed a new system that allows them to use high- tech tools to locate foreign objects and get radiology involved sooner than before.

The system includes using bar-coded sponges and x-rays to locate metal items and soft goods. Bar codes on sponges are scanned when sponges are used and again when they’re taken out of the body. If there’s a count discrepancy, the surgeon knows to search the surgical field. The sponges also contain a radiopaque tag allowing a radiologist to see it via x-ray.

With the new system, surgeons use an electronic radiology order system to quickly call for help to locate any missing objects. The X-rays are performed while the patient is still in the operating room.

“The challenges of involving radiology in the operating room are mostly ones of communication and timing,” says Ella Kazerooni, MD, MS, a professor of radiology at the University of Michigan and associate chair of clinical affairs at the University of Michigan Health System, in a press release. “First, the surgical team needs to recognize that there may be a possible retained foreign object. Once they do, there needs to be good communication with the radiology department to get the technologist into the OR as quickly as possible. We don’t want to delay the surgery or lengthen the anesthesia time unnecessarily.”

Source: University of Michigan Health System