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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.



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.


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).


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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