UNC Hospitals deploys radio frequency technology in ORs

By Mike Miliard
10:14 AM

University of North Carolina Hospitals has implemented the RF Assure Detection System, from Bellevue, Wash.-based RF Surgical Systems, in its surgical suites. The system uses radio-frequency detection technology to prevent surgical items from remaining inside a patient post-surgery.

Officials say UNC Hospitals is using the RF Assure system as an adjunct to the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN)'s standard protocol of manual counting. RF Assure provides verification of counting to eliminate this highly preventable medical error and enhance patient safety in operating rooms without adding secondary counting procedures or additional time consuming processes.

[See also: Secure Care, Intelligent InSites partner for RTLS.]

When the RF Assure Detection System is activated, a detection mat, placed on the surgical table under the patient, scans the surgical site and alerts operating room staff if a surgical sponge or other materials fitted with a radio-frequency (RF) tag is remaining inside a patient's body.

"UNC Hospitals is committed to ensuring optimum safety for patients in our care, and the RF Assure Detection System is an important tool in assuring that no errors occur in our surgical suites," said Christopher Clarence Rupp, MD, a surgeon at UNC Hospitals. "We are proud to be a leader in patient safety and this adjunctive technology has helped us bring the highest quality of care to our patients by preventing unnecessary X-rays and repeat surgeries and potentially lowering anesthesia time."

[See also: RFID adoption poised for ‘huge’ growth.]

UNC also participated in a multi-center study on the use of medical technology to help prevent and detect retained surgical objects. Key interim conclusions were reported at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress, and included the following:

  • RF detection can speed identification and avoid use of radiation to locate missing sponges, thereby improving both patient safety and clinical workflow efficiency in the operating room;
  • Retained surgical items (RSIs) occur regardless of whether the manual counts were correct, affirming the need for a check-and-safety balance with adjunctive detection technology; and
  • In almost 90 percent of operations, nursing staff reported that radio-frequency detection offered less stress during wound closure and improved overall confidence that no foreign objects were left in the patient.

"While manual counting by operating room personnel is the standard-of-care in preventing RSI, adjunctive technology is an important added security to further improve patient safety," said Jeffrey Port, MD, co-founder and chairman of RF Surgical. "The RF Assure System represents the cutting-edge in detection of surgical sponges and is an important tool for reducing the incidence of RSI to zero."

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