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New York surgeons should consider technology updates

Medical professionals need to constantly be concerned with how to improve patient care and how to lessen the occurrence of medical mistakes. A common medical mistake and surgeon error is when items are left behind inside a patient. Left-behind items have the potential to create serious post-surgery complications.

There can be hundreds of instruments and utensils used during a single surgency and keeping track of every last one is a tedious and clearly imperfect task. But many New York hospitals, including one in the Bronx, are opting to use a new procedure to make sure nothing is left inside a patient.

Sponges are not equipped with a chip that emits a radio frequency. Following the procedure, doctors wave a wand over the patient, which will pick up the frequency and alert the doctor to any remaining sponges. In addition to the chip, other forms of technology track instruments, but nothing can take the place of an alert surgeon. Surgeon and medical staff need to be aware of their surroundings. Surgeons are always required to examine the patient before closing any incisions.

Even with the new technology, some doctors choose the traditional method of using plastic bags and canisters to visually track instruments, as well as the age-old counting technique. But at a price of roughly $10 per surgery, the tracking technology is hard to ignore.

At this point, doctors have the choice of what method to use when it comes to tracking surgical instruments and sponges but it all comes down to the standard of care. If a doctor chooses to ignore the improved technology options and a patient is injured as a result of a left-behind object, the doctor's failure to use the technology may be considered medical malpractice. An injured patient may then be able to recover damages against the doctor for any expenses incurred as a result of a worsened medical condition.

Source: CBS New York, "http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/12/05/seen-at-11-new-technology-could-prevent-surgeons-from-leaving-items-behind/," Dec. 5, 2012

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