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CJEM.
Vol.13, No.6, 2011; Pages :
384 - 9.

Bacterial contamination and cleanliness of emergency department ultrasound probes.

Sanz GE, Theoret J, Liao MM, Erickson C, Kendall JL.

Department of Emergency Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

As ultrasonography is increasingly used in the emergency department (ED), ultrasound equipment has become a potential threat to infection control. Improperly cleaned ultrasound probes may serve as a vector for pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of MRSA colonization on ultrasound probes used in a busy, urban ED. It was hypothesized that cultures of our ED ultrasound probes would yield a significant number of positive results for MRSA.

METHODS:

In this observational study, 11 ED ultrasound probes were randomly sampled on 10 different occasions. Samples were taken using a RODAC plate method and were cultured for MRSA and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). On half of the randomly assigned sampling occasions, a visual inspection of each ultrasound probe for general cleanliness was conducted and recorded. Data were stratified by ultrasound location in the ED and analyzed using the Fisher exact test, with p < 0.05 deemed to be statistically significant. Results: Of 110 samples, no isolates of MRSA were cultured. One probe yielded a positive culture for MSSA. Probes in the medicine, trauma, and pediatrics areas were found to be clean 65%, 33%, and 70% of the time, respectively. This variability in probe cleanliness by ED location was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS:

Contrary to our hypothesis, MRSA contamination of ultrasound probes was not found. This finding suggests that the spread of MRSA by ED ultrasound machines in a high-volume urban ED is unlikely. Further research at different centres with larger sample sizes is required before these results can be generalized.

 

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