Physician Practice

Get the alcohol out: Your stethoscopes are dirtier than you think they are

Medical Environment Update, February 1, 2019

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Stethoscopes are maybe the most common of all diagnostic tools used in a medical facility, among the first pieces of equipment to be taken out when a patient complains of an ache or an illness. According to a new study, stethoscopes are also very dirty, much more than should be acceptable in an industry trying to reduce the number of infections spread to patients, and common cleaning methods used in medical practices aren’t working.

According to the study, published December 12, 2018 in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), stethoscopes carried by healthcare practitioners are loaded with diverse bacteria, including some that can cause healthcare-associated infections. The research also reviewed the effectiveness of cleaning methods, finding a standardized approach to be superior for removing bacteria compared with various approaches employed by healthcare practitioners.

“This study underscores the importance of adhering to rigorous infection control procedures, including fully adhering to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]-recommended decontamination procedures between patients, or using single-patient-use stethoscopes kept in each patient’s room,” said Ronald Collman, MD, a professor of medicine, pulmonary, allergy, and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and senior author of the study, in a written statement.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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