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The most frequently retained surgical item is the cotton gauze surgical sponge which is available in a number of different sizes. Most reports of retained sponges refer to the 4"x4" raytex (an acronym we have coined to refer to a radiopaque textile) or the 18"x18" laparotomy pad. There have also been cases of retained OR towels. The most common sites are the abdomen/pelvis, the vagina and then the chest, although sponges have been retained in surgical wounds of every size and after almost any operation. Increased appreciation has occurred around the problem of retained vaginal sponges and miscellaneous items left behind after spontaneous vaginal births as well as elective gynecological operative cases. This has led to efforts to move better safety and preventive strategies to labor and delivery areas in addition to the OR and other procedural areas.
With retained sponges under better control, now we are seeing increased reports of retained small miscellaneous items, devices and unretrieved device fragments. These include intact but separated parts of surgical items, some of which are not radiopaque, broken pieces of instruments, small microneedles, trocars, guidewires and sheaths. These events occur in the OR and throughout the hospital and involve a wide variety of procedural items and an expanded list of provider stakeholders. The preventive strategies for these types of items are not applicable only to the OR since retained guidewires, sheaths and catheters are found after interventional vascular, cardiac and radiological procedures. Various types of providers now must develop standardized processes to account for all of the tools and parts of devices. Practices originating in the OR can be shared with these other clinical groups to help prevent retention and speed accountability.