bar-coded-sponge

Here's another company with a surgical sponge tracking solution: SurgiCount Medical. According to this story, the VA's West Los Angeles Health Care Center will be using the bar coded sponges in a trial.

The surgical sponges and towels come with their own bar
codes. Using a barcode scanner, operating room staff scans the sponges at the beginning of the operation and
as it is removed from the patient. The system keeps track of the scanned sponges, noting any discrepancy between those scanned before use and any that might not have been scanned at the end of surgery. This system is probably less expensive than this one that uses RFID. However, the barcode solution seems dependent on all the sponges getting scanned prior to use - the RFID technology simply tells you if any tagged sponges are in a particular location (like a bucket or the patient).

SurgiCount Medical, in Temecula, Calif., has not released the cost
of its system, but says the system is more accurate and less costly
than RFID (radio-frequency identification).

Earlier in August, SurgiCount Medical announced that it had
entered into a three-year agreement to provide its patented
Safety-Sponge System to the entire network of Oklahoma City-based
Integris Health, Oklahoma's largest not-for-profit health care
organization.

According to SurgiCount Medical, sponges are accidentally left inside
patients in an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 surgical procedures each year
in the United States alone, while liability settlements and other costs
related to forgotten sponges reach an estimated $500 million to $750
million each year.

SurgiCount has some interesting stats on their site about the frequency (3,000-5,000 per year) and costs ($750 Million - $1.5 Billion in legal costs) around sponges inadvertently left in patients after surgery. Whoa.

Pictured right is a sample sponge with a barcode.