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SmartSponge Technology Tested in Operating Rooms

Conquest - Fall 2009


By Erika Hargrove

M. D. Anderson is one of the first hospitals in the nation to try using new technology to improve patient safety by reducing the risk that a foreign object might remain in the patient following surgery.

As part of the Clinical Safety and Effectiveness educational program, a team of surgeons, nurses and performance improvement experts is testing the impact and cost-effectiveness of the ClearCount SmartSponge System that electronically identifies and counts surgical sponges.

Currently, operating room nurses and technicians manually count these items before each case, followed by a recount after the case to make sure the numbers match.

With SmartSponge, each item has a radiofrequency tag sewn in that uniquely identifies it. When a case is completed, all of the items are dropped in an attached bucket. If something is missing, the system knows exactly how many and what the items are.

The SmartSponge pilot is being led by Miguel Rodriguez-Bigas, M.D., professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology, and Pamela Soliman, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology.

“The beauty of the technology is that it forces you to locate each sponge before closing up the patient. It makes you accountable for every item, which is ideal from the patient safety perspective,” Soliman says. “We recognize the potential benefit, but before committing to the technology, more information will need to be collected by the Clinical Safety and Effectiveness team.”

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