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5 Technologies to Make Surgery Safer

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, August 31, 2010

More than a third of all retained surgical items are instruments (52% radiopaque sponges and 43% instruments), according to a 2007 study in the Journal of Surgical Research. Correcting such errors adds about $2 billion each year to the nation's medical bill.

2. Wrong-site surgeries
Wrong-site surgeries, an alarming surgical error that sometimes inspires patients to draw on their bodies with magic markers (“THIS LEG, PLEASE!”) could be reduced with better access to data. Charts can get mixed up, but a new  portable biometric-activated data card that stores patients' personal medical information could be a solution to that problem. It doesn't work unless the patient first scans his or her fingerprint on the card itself. Only after the finger is verified can physicians view the data. It's the size of a credit card, but it can hold gigabytes of data, including full EKGs, complete CT scan images, and digital MRI images.

3. Healthy tissue damage
Technology could prevent complications that aren't caused by human error, as well, including damage to normal, healthy tissue. A new electrosurgical device aids surgeons by selectively targeting diseased cartilage tissue during procedures. Its design, which combines low RF energy delivery with a protected electrode (to avoid electrode-to-tissue contact), allows for localized treatment of damaged/fibrillated cartilage tissue while avoiding harm to healthy cartilage.  

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