Radiofrequency-Based Identification Medical Device: An Evaluable Solution for Surgical Sponge Retrieval?

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Background. A retained surgical item in patients (gossypiboma) is a persisting problem, despite consistent improvements and existing guidelines in counting instruments and sponges. Previous experiences with radiofrequency identification technology (RFID) tracking sponges show that it could represent an innovation, in order to reduce the criticism and increase the effectiveness during surgical procedures. We present an automated system that allows reduction of errors and improves safety in the operating room. Methods. The system consists of 3 antennas, surgical sponges containing RFID tags, and dedicated software applications, with Wi-Fi real-time communication between devices. The first antenna provides the initial count of gauzes; the second a real-time counting during surgery, including the sponges thrown into the kick-bucket; and the third can be used in the event of uneven sponge count. The software allows management at all stages of the process. Results. In vitro and in vivo tests were performed: the system provided excellent results in detecting sponges in patients’ body. Hundred percent retained sponges were detected correctly, even when they were overlapped. No false positive or false negative was recorded. The counting procedure turned out to be more streamlined and efficient and it could save time in a standard procedure. Conclusions. The RFID system for sponge tracking was shown to be experimentally a reliable and feasible method to track sponges with a full detection accuracy in the operating room. The results indicate the system to be safe and effective with acceptable cost-effective parameters.

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