As if an injured worker needed another reason to think of surgery as only a last resort, a recent article in Annals of Surgery journal noted that there is a discrepancy in the count of surgical instruments (including sponges) in nearly 13% of surgical procedures. This, of course, does not mean an instrument, or a sponge, is left in a surgical patient in 13% of procedures (that percentage is closer to 0.02%, or one in 5,000). Still, this seems like a staggeringly high percentage to have a miscount.
An article in Amednews.com suggests some solutions to reducing this figure. One is putting bar codes on sponges, which would then be scanned in and out. The count would then be automatic. The article suggests this would add only about $9.00 per surgical case. Another option is placing tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in the sponges. A wand could then be used to locate missing sponges, either inside a patient, or around the operating room. This would cost an additional $25.00 to $45.00 per surgical procedure.
While certainly no injured worker wants to rush into surgery, sometimes a work injury requires surgical intervention, whether it is a back surgery, a total knee replacement, or any other procedure. The hope is that these new technologies can make surgery safer, and less risky, for every injured worker.