Device Detects Surgical Sponges Left Behind in Patients

DEVICE TO DETECT SPONGES A new hand-held scanning device similar to the wands used by airport security personnel could help surgeons detect surgical sponges accidentally left inside patients, according to research from Stanford University. To work, the technique requires that surgical sponges have radio ID chips inserted in them, but this device could help prevent up to two-thirds of mishaps involving foreign objects sewn accidentally into patients. The study, published this week in the Archives of Surgery, showed that the wand detected 100 percent of sponges in less than three seconds each and with perfect accuracy. The doctors and nurses who studied the new wand said that it is easy to use and could be helpful, but they also complained that it is too big.

OVERWEIGHT TEENS COULD FACE EARLY DEATH The heavier a woman is at age 18, the more likely she is to die young, researchers conclude after a study of more than 100,000 nurses. The most significant increase in death risk was for women who were obese at age 18. Compared with women who are thin at 18, women who are obese at that age have nearly three times the risk of premature death. However, overall risk of death in the women was quite low -- less than 1 percent of the women died during the 10-year study. These findings were published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

DIET DRUG HELPS TEENS LOSE WEIGHT The diet pill Meridia may be effective in helping obese teenagers lose weight, researchers said in a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Doctors from many medical centers followed obese teens for one year. Adolescents taking Meridia lost about 18 more pounds than those undergoing behavior therapy to lose weight. As the weight came off, the teenagers also improved their cholesterol and blood sugar levels. However, Meridia is not without side effects. Kids taking the drug were more likely to suffer constipation and were twice as likely to experience an abnormally fast heart rate. Currently, the weight loss drug Xenical is the only medication the Federal Drug Administration has approved to treat obesity in teenagers.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.