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Bar-coded sponges could prevent 'never events' in surgery

If you're a patient who has undergone surgery and found out that a sponge was left inside your body, you're one of many who has suffered from a "never event." A "never event," aptly named due to being an event that never should have happened or shouldn't take place because there are supposed to be safeguards in place to prevent it. Leaving a sponge in a patient is one of those errors that shouldn't happen.

In a surgical setting, a surgical team counts the tools that come into the room. They count them as they're used in the patient, and they count them as they're returned to the tray. These counts are extremely important since they identify if all the tools have been removed from the body. Counting incorrectly or not indicating when a tool enters the body could result in leaving items inside the patient. Those items can cause serious complications.

Surgical sponges are left inside patients because they become almost impossible to see. They fill with blood, taking on the color of the surrounding tissues. Fortunately, there is a new system, called the SurgiCount Safety-Sponge System, that more hospitals are beginning to use. This creative system uses bar-coded sponges, which means that they can be checked in and out of a computer system. If one is missing, the computer system will let the surgical team know, so they can locate it and remove it.

Advances in medicine can help prevent never events. Fortunately, more people are adopting systems like above, so patients are less likely to deal with complications.

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