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J Patient Saf. 2017 Feb 22. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000365. [Epub ahead of print]

Evaluating the Impact of Radio Frequency Identification Retained Surgical Instruments Tracking on Patient Safety: Literature Review.

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From the *Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Brigham and Women's Hospital; †Center for Patient Safety, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School; ‡Bouve' School of Health Sciences, School of Nursing, Northeastern University; and §Medical Library and Educational Services, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.



Retained surgical instruments (RSI) are one of the most serious preventable complications in operating room settings, potentially leading to profound adverse effects for patients, as well as costly legal and financial consequences for hospitals. Safety measures to eliminate RSIs have been widely adopted in the United States and abroad, but despite widespread efforts, medical errors with RSI have not been eliminated.


Through a systematic review of recent studies, we aimed to identify the impact of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology on reducing RSI errors and improving patient safety.


A literature search on the effects of RFID technology on RSI error reduction was conducted in PubMed and CINAHL (2000-2016). Relevant articles were selected and reviewed by 4 researchers.


After the literature search, 385 articles were identified and the full texts of the 88 articles were assessed for eligibility. Of these, 5 articles were included to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of using RFID for preventing RSI-related errors. The use of RFID resulted in rapid detection of RSI through body tissue with high accuracy rates, reducing risk of counting errors and improving workflow.


Based on the existing literature, RFID technology seems to have the potential to substantially improve patient safety by reducing RSI errors, although the body of evidence is currently limited. Better designed research studies are needed to get a clear understanding of this domain and to find new opportunities to use this technology and improve patient safety.

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