Hospital to Use Bar-Coded Sponges

An L.A. hospital is trying out new scanners and bar-coded items from SurgiCount to ensure that no supplies get left inside patients after surgery.

To make sure that nothing gets left inside a patient, surgeons assistants count and recount surgical supplies before and after surgery.

Soon workers at the Veterans Administration West Los Angeles Health Care Center will have a computer count with them.

The hospital will use bar-coded sponges and other equipment from SurgiCount Medical, a wholly owned subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Patient Safety Technologies. The technology should be shipped to the hospital before the end of August, SurgiCount Medical said.

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Every surgical sponge and towel comes pre-labeled with its own bar code. Using a scanner similar to those used in grocery stores, operating staff scans equipment at the beginning of the operation and as it is removed from the patient.

The computer alerts operating staff to any missing supplies before the patient is stitched up.

The bar code labels are attached to the sponges by a process using heat. The Safety-Sponge System was approved by the FDA in March of 2006, and is the only computer-assisted system for counting sponges cleared by the FDA.

SurgiCount Medical, in Temecula, Calif., has not released the cost of its system, but says the system is more accurate and less costly than RFID (radio-frequency identification).

Earlier in August, SurgiCount Medical announced that it had entered into a three-year agreement to provide its patented Safety-Sponge System to the entire network of Oklahoma City-based Integris Health, Oklahomas largest not-for-profit health care organization.

According to SurgiCount Medical, sponges are accidentally left inside patients in an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 surgical procedures each year in the United States alone, while liability settlements and other costs related to forgotten sponges reach an estimated $500 million to $750 million each year.

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