A new FDA approved procedure developed by Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Bruce Waxman uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to help prevent surgeons from operating on the wrong patient or the wrong part of a patient.
The new procedure makes use of an RFID transponder, dubbed the Surgichip, and an associated reader.
In use, the Surgichip is programmed with critical information such as date of surgery, patient’s full name, surgical site, a description of the operation to be performed, and the surgeon’s name.
The Surgichip itself can store 256 characters which allows a complete description of most procedures to be encoded on the chip (e.g., arthroscopic meniscus repair and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with patellar tendon allograft). In the unusual instance in which more than 256 characters are required, a second chip may be used.
The chip may be programmed at the preoperative outpatient visit, in the emergency room, or on the hospital floor if the patient is an inpatient. A nurse or physician then scans the chip with an RFID reader and the patient reviews the information to be sure it is correct.
The Surgichip reader itself prints in clear typed script rather than handwriting or hand printing which are occasionally illegible and may be misinterpreted.
On the day of surgery, the chip is again scanned and the information is reviewed with the patient before he/she is sedated. If correct, the chip is applied to the skin where an incision is to be made.
The chip is left in place during transport to the operating room, while an anesthetic is administered and while the patient is positioned for surgery. In the operating room, the chip is scanned again and the information reviewed by the surgical team. After the accuracy of the information on the chip is confirmed, the chip is removed.
According to Dr.Waxman, the new method diminishes the chance that the information regarding patient identity and surgical procedure will accidentally be switched with that of another patient as may occur when the information is contained in a separate hospital chart. Also, it may prevent mistaking left for right if the patient is positioned face down instead of face up.