Surgery and the lost sponge: RFID to the rescue

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In the future, if you’re unlucky enough to have a surgeon leaves something like a sponge inside you after surgery, a RFID chip could come to your rescue.

Radio Frequency Identification Tags are popping up all over the place, to keep track and secure stock, track luggage, and collect road tolls, for example.

Doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine who tested sponges embedded with RFID chips said that the system accurately alerted them when they deliberately left a sponge inside a temporarily closed surgical site and then used a detector over it. However, the RFID chips were said to be too big (about 20 mm) and would need to be reduced to be practical.

Alex Macario, a physician and professor of anesthesia who led the study, said the future probably will see a combination of tags and other techniques such as counting instruments and sponges before and after an operation.

Hmmm. Counting instruments and sponges… Don’t they do that already? Oh well, it never hurts to have a bit of technological backup, does it? RFIDs iin sponges, whatever next?

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Andy Merrett