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Covidien to Pilot Its RFID-enabled System This Summer

Using passive high-frequency tags, the company's contrast media delivery system for CT scans will alert radiology technicians if they inadvertently try to administer an expired or previously used syringe.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 10, 2008Health-care products firm Covidien says its Covidien Imaging Solutions division expects to carry out tests of its RFID-enabled contrast media delivery system during the next few months, with a commercial launch scheduled by summer's end. The new system, which gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 6, employs passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags and interrogators to ensure that empty, previously used or expired syringes are never administered to a patient during a computed tomography (CT) scan.

Contrast agents are utilized to make blood vessels, organs and other non-bony tissues more visible on an X-ray image. Covidien's contrast delivery system consists of the company's unit-dose Ultraject syringes prefilled with contrast agent, as well as its Optivantage DH power injectors. With the RFID technology, the system will not operate unless the power injector's built-in RFID interrogator recognizes the ID number of the tag attached to the syringe, and determines that the syringe has not expired.

The new system, says Brian Straeb, Covidien's VP of U.S. marketing for imaging solutions, is the first of several steps being taken toward using RFID for greater safety management of the company's contrast media. The initial system only prevents a used or incorrect syringe from being utilized. In the future, however, Covidien intends to employ RFID to enable the system to regulate the amount of dosage, and perhaps to link that data with a health-care facility's back-end system for use with such functions as invoicing, as well as for tracking methods used during contrast media application for a specific patient.

"What RFID does," Straeb says, "is it combines the prefilled syringe with the power injector to create an intelligent interface that allows a radiology technologist to ensure there is no misadministration of contrast media."

The majority of prefilled CT scan contrast agents sold in the United States are manufactured by Covidien's Imaging Solutions subsidiary. The viscous material, usually offered in dosages of 50 to 150 milliliters, requires a power injector and syringe to more readily administer it to patients intravenously. Health-care facilities must ensure that they don't reuse a syringe, which could be empty or have air bubbles in it, or use a fresh syringe containing the incorrect substance, such as saline solution. One possible scenario might involve a technologist leaving a used syringe on a table when leaving for the day, and the next thinking it had been laid out for an upcoming patient. Because contrast media is clear, it can be difficult to determine if a syringe is full or empty.

Since 2004, health-care facilities must also comply with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requirements to regulate the use of contrast media as they would a drug (see Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals' Smart Cabinet Tracks Contrast Agents).

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