The aim of the study was to compare retained surgical item (RSI) rates for 137 Veterans Health Administration Surgery Programs with and without surgical count technology and the root cause analysis (RCA) for soft good RSI events between October 1, 2009 and December 31, 2016. A 2017 survey identified 46 programs to have independently acquired surgical count technology.
Retained surgical item rates were calculated by the sum of events (sharp, soft good, instrument) divided by the total procedures performed. The RCAs for RSI events were analyzed using codebooks for procedure type/location and root cause characterization.
One hundred twenty-four RSI events occurred in 2,964,472 procedures for an overall RSI rate of 1/23,908 procedures. The RSI rates for 46 programs with surgical count technology were significantly higher in comparison with 91 programs without a surgical count technology system (1/18,221 versus 1/30,593, P = 0.0026). The RSI rates before and after acquiring the surgical count technology were not significantly different (1/17,508 versus 1/18,673, P = 0.8015). Root cause analyses for 42 soft good RSI events identified multiple associated disciplines (general surgery 26, urology 5, cardiac 4, neurosurgery 3, vascular 2, thoracic 1, gynecology 1) and locations (abdomen 26, thorax 7, retroperitoneal 4, paraspinal 2, extremity 1, pelvis 1, and head/neck 1). Human factors (n = 24), failure of policy/procedure (n = 21), and communication (n = 19) accounted for 64 (65%) of the 98 root causes identified.
Acquisition of surgical count technology did not significantly improve RSI rates. Soft good RSI events are associated with multiple disciplines and locations and the following dominant root causes: human factors, failure to follow policy/procedure, and communication.