Evaluation Background: Surgical Sponge Counting and Detection Technologies

June 13, 2018 | Evaluations & Guidance


Here's background for our Evaluations of adjunct surgical sponge counting and detection technologies, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how these technologies are used, which specs are important, and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI Institute's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.

Surgical sponge counting and detection technologies are intended to reduce or even eliminate the likelihood of unintentionally leaving surgical soft goods (e.g., sponges, textiles, and towels, referred to collectively as "sponges") inside a patient during a surgical procedure. The two basic technologies are:

  1. Surgical sponge counting systems. These function as a technological adjunct to the manual counting of surgical sponges before and during a surgical procedure, as well as before and after closure—a process that is prone to error. Data shows that only 22% of the time are retained surgical sponges discovered through a discrepancy in the manual count (Joint Commission 2013). On the other hand, in 61%-88% of cases in which a sponge is retained, staff members believe the manual count to have been correct (Williams et al. 2014, Regenbogen et al. 2009).

  2. Surgical sponge detection systems. These are used to detect the location of a misplaced or unaccounted-for sponge, which may be inside the patient or elsewhere in the OR (e.g., in the trash, on the floor).

Some technologies can serve as one or the other, while some can perform both sponge counting and detection as part of one system. Either technology requires that a facility adopt proprietary tagged sponges to avoid inclusion or use of uncountable surgical soft goods.

Bar-coded counting technology for surgical soft goods has been available since 2006; radio-frequency (RF) detection technology for surgical soft goods has been available since 2007. Technological changes include attempting to do the following:

  1. Reduce the human error component in the process, via a combination of automated cavity scans and counting

  2. Increase...

Access Full Content

Contact us today at 610.825.6000.