RFID Keeps Surgical Sponges Where They Belong


"The SmartSponge System provides a safety net for human error. Despite the level of experience of staff, individuals are bound to make mistakes. Distractions during counting and the mundane simplicity of 'counting' make the inevitability of losing track of a sponge a constant reality. The use of a system that virtually eliminates retained sponge incidents allows us to meet our ethical obligation to our patients," said William Stevens, RN, BSN, CNOR Nurse Manager OR/PACU Surgery Specialty Service Line, VA Pittsburgh.

The VA Pittsburgh hospital has implemented SmartSponge Systems into its full suite of operating rooms. The national Veterans Health system, which includes 155 medical centers and 842 outpatient clinics, is the largest health care system in the US, with more than 5 million of the 25 million veterans alive today receiving its services.

"We're pleased to add the VA Pittsburgh to our customer base," said David Palmer, Chief Executive Officer of ClearCount. "The VA Pittsburgh has shown great leadership in terms of innovation and its commitment to patient safety. We are proud to now be a part of that continued tradition."

Despite designation as a "never event," retained items are estimated to occur in one of every 1,000 to 1,500 abdominal surgical procedures, which can lead to hospital inefficiencies, unnecessary costs, serious infections and even death. Hospital infections add an estimated $30.5 billion to the nation's hospital costs each year. In one study using a retrospective review of medical malpractice claims data from a statewide insurer in Massachusetts, sponge counts had been falsely correct in 76 percent of non-vaginal surgical cases involving retained sponges. Falsely correct sponge counts were attributed to team fatigue, difficult or long operations, sponges "sticking together," shift changes or procedures with a large number of sponges.