Surgical Sponges Left Inside The Patient Body | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

I have written a series of articles focusing on simple methods of preventing injuries/medical malpractice in the hospital operating room setting, involving surgical sponges/towels left inside a patient’s body.  The medical field calls this “retained sponge” situations, but patients suffering this malpractice just find out that they have a major infection and need to have a second surgery-and they usually retain an injury lawyer like a member of my Virginia Beach, Virginia (VA) injury law firm.

These types of medical errors should never happen, and do not involve any “complication” of surgery. They are simple administrative matters (“mistakes”) that can be prevented and reduced and nearly eliminated, especially with the advent of new computer aided technologies.


A few weeks ago I wrote about a company that has invented a simple method of placing a bar code on each surgical sponge, and provides a barcode reader wand. The company SurgiCount has its products in a number of hospitals, and reports terrific success in reducing the number of lost surgical sponges that can cause an infection in the patient, which exposes the hospital or surgeon to medical malpractice liability. And that liability is not speculative–it is generally clear liability to the patient. Since my last article I received e-mail from other representatives of companies with technologies that can also reduce the number of patients who have surgical sponges or surgical towels left inside their body by accident.


Another company is using radio frequency identification (RFID) methods on surgical towels or sponges– yes, the same technology that is being placed on some consumer products along with bar codes. RFID technology allows for tracking of a product a little bit like a global positioning system, but on a much more simple basis because it is not being tracked by satellites but can be located a nearby computer wand in a hospital setting.

The best part of the RF system is that it can wand the table, floor, trash, etc in the operating room as well.  This is particularly advantageous if there is an “incorrect count”.  The RF system is designed to allow the doctor/surgeon to have the rapid ability to find the sponge/towel either inside the patient or wherever it may be in the surgical setting.


To read the full latest article in Shapiro’s series on medical malpractice prevention, click here.