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Are There Any Inexpensive RFID Tags That Can Track Surgical Sponges?

Posted By RFID Journal, 01.09.2014

If so, who manufactures such tags?

—Name withheld


There are several transponders that can be embedded in surgical sponges. In fact, entire systems have been developed for the purpose of sponge tracking. ClearCount Medical Solutions, a Pittsburgh, Penn.-based firm focused on improving surgical safety, offers a SmartSponge system designed to help prevent medical teams from inadvertently leaving sponges inside surgical patients. The solution, granted clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under Section 510(k) of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, consists of sponges embedded with Texas Instruments' Tag-it HF-I tags, which operate at 13.56 MHz and support the ISO 15693 and 18000-3 standards (see RFID-enabled Surgical Sponges a Step Closer to OR).

Medline Industries, a U.S. distributor of medical supplies, markets a medical system that employs radio frequency (RF) to detect any surgical gauze, towels and sponges that may have been left behind in a human body following an operation. The system, known as RF-Detect, was developed by RF Surgical Systems, a medical device company based in Bellevue, Wash., which received FDA regulatory approval in November 2006. The platform was designed to augment manual procedures in place requiring surgical teams to count equipment prior to performing an operation, and to then recount them just prior to sewing up a body (see Medline Markets RF System for Surgical Sponges).

Haldor Advanced Technologies offers a system called ORLocate. The solution, whereby surgical sponges and instruments are fitted with passive high-frequency (HF) RFID tags, has been previously tested in a laboratory environment and with animals. It consists of an ORLocate console with a 19-inch touch screen, on which information regarding the items present, along with their status, is displayed by the system's Sterile Processing and Distribution (SPD) software. In addition, there is a sponge tray with an RFID antenna and a reader for sterilized sponges, as well as a sponge bucket, also with a reader and an antenna, used to count soiled sponges. For hemostats and other surgical instruments fitted with tags, there is an RFID-enabled "back tray" located on the surgical setup table on which the hospital's trays of instruments are stored in preparation for use, as well as an RFID-enabled Mayo tray, used to detect instruments placed on the Mayo stand as they await surgical use. A handheld reader, known as a locator, is utilized to pinpoint missing items, and a desktop reader dedicated to the sterilization procedure captures each tag's ID number as instruments are sterilized following a surgical procedure. Finally, there are RFID antennas located on the console's upper panel and near the Mayo tray, to identify when new sponges or tools are added during surgery (see ORLocate RFID-enabled System for Surgical Sponges and Instruments Gets FDA Clearance).

Using one of these systems would be a better option, in my view, than buying HF tags and developing your own system, which would likely require conducting your own trials.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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