New tracking technology for medical instruments helps improve patient safety at a local hospital by curbing the risk of potentially dangerous mishaps during surgical procedures.
Among the first hospitals in the state to implement the technology, Murray-Calloway County Hospital’s Surgery Department recently brought online a radio-frequency detection system to prevent and identify surgical items possibly left inside a patient during surgery.
Known as the RF Assure Detection System, the technology bolsters standard surgical counting practices inside the operating room as an additional fail-safe measure without taking up additional time.
“This is a technology that is utilized to prevent a complication that you would think should never happen, but statistically we know throughout the nation — despite the safeguards — it still happens,” said Dr. David Koelsch, chief of surgery at the hospital.
“We think this is an investment in ensuring we provide surgery as safely as possible for our patients.”
The detection system uses specially designed laparotomy sponges, towels and gauze with small, built-in radio-frequency tags, Koelsch said. When the system is activated, an electronic mat on the surgical table scans the procedure site, keeping count of all the tagged items.
Surgical staff can also pass a radio-frequency wand across the surgical site to electronically mark each of the items, a process that takes about 12 seconds.
Jill Asher, director of perioperative services at Murray-Calloway, said the hospital follows strict guidelines about how many times and how often the surgical staff should count items — sometimes three or four times during a routine procedure — and the radio-frequency system adds another level of patient security.
“This is a wonderful tool to assure our patients that patient safety is the utmost concern and we’re giving them the best quality possible,” Asher said.
Surgical sponges account for about two-thirds of all retained items mistakenly left in patients, most often in the abdomen, according to a study published by the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses in August 2011.
Should a sponge be left inside a patient, numerous complications can transpire, including infections, Asher said. Retained surgical items can cause patients pain, and can lengthen recovery time post-operation.
“There are highly trained and responsible people in the operating rooms across the nation, but incidents still happen, so this RF technology gives us that extra layer of protection to help us assure our patients,” Asher said.
The technology has been installed in all six of the surgery department’s operating rooms, as well as the hospital’s labor and delivery suites.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.