While cases of retained foreign objects are rare -- occurring once in every 5,000 surgeries -- discrepancies in counts happen in 13% of surgeries, according to an August Annals of Surgery study.
There is a push to get hospitals and surgery centers to buy gadgets (photo credit) like the SurgiCount's Safety-Sponge™ System featured recently over at Medgadget. The surgical sponges are individually bar-coded and then counted with the portable scanner. This would work nicely on scheduled cases, but I wonder how well it would work on those trauma cases when the sponges are needed three minutes ago. Would be interesting to see it in action on those cases.
SurgiCount Medical website
Sponges, surgical instruments miscounted in 13% of surgeries: Getting the count right in the operating room is a challenge. New technologies could make things easier. By Kevin B. O'Reilly, AMNews, Sept. 22/29, 2008.
"The Frequency and Significance of Discrepancies in the Surgical Count," abstract, Annals of Surgery, 248(2):337-341 August 2008; Greenberg, Caprice C MD, Regenbogen, Scott E MD, Lipsitz, Stuart R ScD, Diaz-Flores, Rafael MD, Gawande, Atul A MD
NoThing Left Behind: A Surgical Safety Project to Prevent Retained Surgical Items