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Device to put a stop to surgical equipment left inside a patient

As New York residents know, surgical procedures are conducted to improve the health of the patient. Sadly, some surgeries go awry and the patient's health is endangered. In these instances, surgical malpractice may be the cause.

Annually, around 4,000 objects are accidentally left inside patients during surgery. For this reason, some hospitals are using a new technology that will hopefully end one of the causes of surgical malpractice: surgical equipment left inside a patient.

Sponges are commonly left inside patients because a sponge can easily go unnoticed when drenched with blood during surgery. If undetected, sponges can cause scar tissue and infections.

Additionally, the patient, hospital or doctor might also face complex legal consequences in such a case. In most states, there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice lawsuits, which means the aggrieved party has to file a suit within two years of the incident.

The new technology features sponges that are embedded with microchips. The microchip can be detected using a wand. After the surgical procedure is over, the doctor waves the wand to check whether a sponge was left behind. The scanner will emit a beep if a sponge was left inside the patient.

Traditionally, nurses account for all sponges prior to and after surgery. If there is an item unaccounted for, an X-ray is prepared.

While the new technology is beneficial for patients, it is not yet available in all hospitals. Consequently, if patients experience or suspect that they are victims of malpractice, they have the option to consult a legal professional who can accurately assess their situation. The professional can then help them file a "certificate of merit," which is an essential step in a malpractice suit in many states.

Source:, "New technology helps surgeons avoid leaving supplies in patients," Dr. Sapna Parikh, Feb. 21, 2013

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