For Blood-chilling Thrills, Give Me UFOs, Not RFOs.

ufoNXP RFID Technology Chosen for SmartSponge System, Reducing Risk of Retained Foreign Objects in Surgical Procedures

Although most of us do not lend much credence to the legends, UFOs take up a sizable portion of our collective cultural imagination, as evidenced in films like the Alien and Predator movies, Independence Day, and ET.  For some reason we consider it a thrill to entertain the notion that unidentified flying objects might be alien spacecrafts sent to take over planet Earth.  I mean, what could be more scary than that?  Well, my answer to that would be RFO’s, something that has a proven rate of incidence and can be life-threatening to individuals.

RFO stands for “retained foreign objects,” such as surgical sponges, that are “left behind” in patients’ bodies.  An unwelcome alien presence indeed, capable of causing serious complications and even death.  RFOs have been reported, according to a 2008 study in The Journal of the American College of Surgeons, in approximately 1 out of every 5,500 surgical procedures, and 1 out of every 1,000 to 1,500 abdominal surgeries. Surgical sponges account for 69 percent of RFOs, primary culprits due to the fact that once they become saturated with blood, they become extremely hard for the human eye to detect.   Although conscientious medical staff may take careful counts during surgical procedures, human vigilance is clearly not sufficient.  Eighty-eight percent of the incidents reported involved final counts that were falsely thought to be correct.   During complex, time-critical operations, and procedures involving multiple surgeons, a safeguard against human error is sorely needed.

Thankfully, ClearCount Medical Solutions has a goal of bringing the incident rate of RFOs from rare, down to never, with their RFID enabled Smart Sponge System.  ClearCount recently selected the RFID solutions offered by NXP Semiconductors to enable the SmartSponge System.  NXP is the leading provider of RFID multi-applications.

The SmartSponge System provides the answer for achieving accurate accountability and safe-guarding against human error.  The RFID RFID SmartSponge Medical Solutionsolution offered by NXP allows surgical sponges to be assigned with unique serial numbers, which can then be wirelessly acquired.  Sponges are packaged in pre-defined quantities, and each package can be waved over an RFID reader to initially ensure a correct package count.  The SmartBucket is a disposal system that also reads each RFID signal and accounts for every discarded sponge.  The system’s SmartWand can be waved over the patient’s body to pick up the wireless signals of any remaining sponges.  Therefore, the system allows a unique read before, during, and after the surgery, assuring accuracy and patient safety.  

David Palmer, CEO of ClearCount, said: "Our SmartWand-DTX and SmartSponge System, the first Food and Drug Administration-cleared RFID-based platform for the operating room, can help save patients from serious complications that can arise when surgical sponges are left behind. Our solutions also provide renewed confidence -- for doctors, hospitals and insurance agencies -- that they are providing the highest level of patient safety."

I may still get a thrill from staying up late and watching aliens invade the earth, but I’ll gladly fore-go that thrill when it comes to alien objects being left behind in my own, or any other, human body.

See the video of the SmartSponge below, or visit

Further information, a demo and samples of the SmartSponge System will be available at the NXP booth 204 at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 in Orlando, Florida, April 12 to 14.

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