Surgeries often lead to huge amount of discarded and unused supplies

Tens of thousands of surgeries take place in hospitals and other facilities every day. And it appears that clinicians discard huge numbers of unused medical supplies that are ordered for each procedure.

study published earlier this year by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco in the Journal of Neurosurgery examined 58 neurosurgeries performed at their own facility. They discovered that nearly $1,000 in medical supplies on average were discarded with every surgical procedure.

Sponges, blue towels and gloves were the most commonly discarded items. The priciest item that is often discarded is surgifoam, a specialty sponge designed to stop bleeding. A single surgifoam sponge can cost close to $4,000.

Unopened supplies can be reused. But in many instances, supplies are opened and then not used, meaning they must be tossed, according to California HealthLine.

Surgical suites are not the only area in hospitals where waste is abundant. A 2014 study found that hospitals wasted $11 billion a year on inefficient communications. Another study published last year concluded that hospitals could curb waste and inefficiencies by carefully studying and redesigning their workflows.

The study suggested that exposing surgeons to price transparency--how much they wasted versus their peers--could lead to significant improvements. Physicians have been known to ration care based on cost.

Michael Lawton, M.D., a study co-author and one of its subjects, said he performed about 400 surgeries per year. He told California HealthLine that more diligent use of supplies “could translate into teaching and research opportunities, and also allow more patients to come in” to receive treatment.