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Device spots sponges left behind

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11:45am, July 25, 2006

Major operations require dozens of sponges—pieces of gauze used to mop up blood—and surgical teams keep track of them by counting how many go in and come out. However, sponges are the surgical objects most often left in patients. Surgeons may soon have a new way to detect sponges accidentally left inside a patient.

Gauze left inside a patient can cause inflammation, infection, and intestinal blockages. An earlier study showed that 57 patients in the United States died from foreign bodies left inside them in 2000.

In the July Archives of Surgery, researchers report that in tests during operations, doctors promptly located stray sponges labeled with radiofrequency identification chips.

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