Data suggests that a surgical item is retained in as many as one in every 1,500 chest or abdominal surgical procedures. It’s well known that retained surgical items (RSIs) lead to inefficiency, increased costs and adverse effects for the patient. According to CMS data, RSIs are the most frequently reported – and the most costly – never event. Surgical sponges represent more than 60 percent of RSIs.

An increasing number of surgical patients, coupled with heightened awareness of the need for RSI prevention, are driving the market for both surgical sponges and RSI prevention technologies.

Kari Cashmore, director of marketing for Cardinal Health’s OR division, says her company has seen the impact of those trends. “Relative to RSI prevention, we are continuing to see increasing focus by both stand-alone facilities and at the IDN level on improving their patient outcomes through the reduction of preventable mistakes.” She says health care facilities are “recognizing their responsibility to their staff in terms of providing them with all of the ‘technology tools’ to not only protect their patient but also themselves.”

Market researcher TechNavio’s analysts predicted in a recent report that the market for surgical sponges will grow nearly 13 percent every year until 2015. In addition to RSI prevention awareness, the analysts cited an increase in agreements among group purchasing organizations and vendors as a major trend contributing to growth. New, in-demand sponge technology includes fabric designed not to adhere to tissues and “safety sponges” that are designed to accompany RSI prevention systems. Cashmore concurs: “The trend we are seeing is surgical sponge users are migrating away from ‘non-safety’ (X-ray detectable only) sponges and enhancing their patient safety by utilizing technology safety sponges.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) labeling of retained surgical items as a “never event” has further led health care facilities to focus on securing the best technology available. In 2011, CMS began requiring facilities to submit adverse event data about RSIs and other never events, and in 2014, RSIs will be added to a list of adverse events that reduce reimbursement levels. According to Cardinal Health data, each RSI costs a health care facility an average of $450,000.

Financial realities have contributed to “growing awareness of the availability of a clinically proven and economically justified solution to this issue, such as the Cardinal Health preferred SurgiCount Safety-Sponge System,” Cashmore says. The SurgiCount SafetySponge System uses barcode technology and is among several prevention systems that have been shown to support accurate counts and a reduction in the incidence of RSIs. Other detection and prevention systems include electronic article surveillance and RFID technology, which allows sponges to be both counted and detected. Though the market for each continues to grow, Reportlinker. com reports that RFID is the newest and fastest-growing detection technology on the market.

“As it becomes increasingly apparent that these never events are completely avoidable, and the consequences extend beyond the patient to the staff, surgeon and reputation of the institution, it will drive significant growth in this space,” Cashmore says.