Health Watch

New technology helping prevent sponges left in patients

Monday, July 02, 2012

In one out of every 1,500 surgeries, medical sponges disappear from the operating table. They're accidentally left inside patients' bodies. An extra set of eyes is being used to help surgeons see what they could be missing.

Lenny Leclair went to the hospital for a routine surgery.

"I never stopped throwing up," Linclair said. But he left much worse than he came in.

"I thought I was dying."

A scan revealed doctors had left a gauze sponge inside Lenny during the surgery. It pierced his colon.

"It was like a septic tank in there," Linclair said. Lenny's case is not unusual.

Dr. Anthony Perricone said, "In the operating room, it's not uncommon, several times a month, the sponge count is incorrect."

Until recently, unless surgeons re-opened the patient, there was no way of knowing if the missing sponge was left inside or put in the trash.

Cardio-thoracic surgeon Anthony Perricone is part of a new generation of doctors using an RF sponge detection system in the OR.

"This is the marker that's detected by the little wand," Perricone said. "So when you hear that, you know there is a sponge."

The doctor puts the device to the test, trying to find which one of these women still has gauze inside them.

"It looks like you need an operation," Perricone said.

And the next generation of sponge detection is this mat - which automatically scans the body and warns the surgeon of any sponges they forgot about. New technology in the OR that helps surgeons "see" what they may have left behind before it's too late.

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