The Cook & Tolley Blog

No instrument left behind: New technology counts surgical tools

Before undergoing surgery in Georgia, you will probably have at least one long talk with the doctor about the procedure. One question that may never cross your mind, though, is, “Who will be counting all the surgical instruments?” At Cook & Tolley, LLP, we counsel people who have suffered serious injury from a retained surgical object.

As researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University point out, there may be 250 instruments used in any given surgery. The surgical team may use them for clamping, cutting, sewing, absorbing blood and cauterizing, as well as other specialized tasks.

While you want at least one designated person accounting for each and every one, you probably do not want your surgery delayed and your body cavity left open as the operating team counts them all. However, even though items may be counted multiple times, patients still suffer from objects such as pieces of gauze, safety pins, needles, clamps and other tools left behind after surgery.

What can be done about it? The good news is that there has already been some success with radio frequency identification tags on sponges. Instead of counting each one individually, OR staff can use a wand that locates them on a computer screen. Similar technology has not worked as well on reusable tools because the rigorous sterilization process has caused RFID chips to stop working. However, recently, the Wyss Institute team along with clinicians from Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a way to embed the chips in the metal so that cleaning does not affect them.

Although this new break-through may not completely eliminate retained surgical objects, once the hospitals across Georgia have implemented this or similar technology, you may have a much lower risk of this devastating medical mistake.

More information about surgical errors is available on our webpage.

Cook & Tolley, LLP
304 E Washington St
Athens, GA 30601
(706) 549-6111

We’re here for you.

Please reach out to us today.