Startup ClearCount Medical Solutions has created an RFID-based solution to the surprisingly common problem of surgical sponges left inside patients. Some studies show that as often as once every 1000 surgeries a sponge is lost internally. The current method of prevention is multiple manual counts by operating room nurses before and after surgery, all entered in a handwritten log. ClearCount is offering an automated solution.
The SmartSponge system places its components on a surgical cart. At the beginning of a procedure, the package of sponges to be used is waved past a scanner on the cart, creating an inventory which can be tracked on a built-in monitor. Used sponges are discarded in an attached waste bin containing an RFID reader, which updates the inventory. If any sponges are unaccounted for at the end of surgery, a wand can be used to scan the patient for any sponges left inside.
ClearCount has a partnership with a sponge producer to sew the tags into its sponges before they ship. The system costs about $19,000, and using tagged sponges typically adds about $35-50 on to the cost of a surgery. The system has passed inspections from the U.S. FDA as well as the FCC.