Radiology workstations dirtier than hospital restrooms

Radiologist workstations are likely to be contaminated by bacteria, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. In fact, according to researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, there was more bacteria found in the workstations at two inpatient and two outpatient reading rooms at two hospitals than were found on door knobs and toilet seats in the nearest restrooms.

Before the workstations were wiped clean with an antiseptic, the mean bacteria counts for the computer mice at the stations was 46.1, and 69.4 for dictation microphones. That compared with mean counts of 10.5 for toilet seats, and 14.8 for doorknobs. The use of an antiseptic on the workstations reduced the microphone and mouse bacterial counts from 76.9 to 0.3 percent.

Further study is needed to analyze the clinical implications of the findings, the authors said, although they added that "simple, rapid, and inexpensive disinfection techniques nearly completely eradicate workstation bacterial contamination."

Bacterial contamination plays a role in another recent radiology study--this one published in the August issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. The authors, led by Paul Chittick, M.D., examined the case of an infection outbreak that took place at Beaumont Health System in late 2011. At that time, researchers found a cluster of bacteria called P. aeruginosa in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit during routine infection control surveillance. P. aeruginosa can increase the risk of bloodstream and respiratory infections in people with compromised immune systems.

In this case, the infections--16 in all--were traced back to the bottles of ultrasound transmission gel used during cardiovascular surgery. Replacement of the gel with a sterile product stopped the outbreak.

As a result the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the gel and the Beaumont Health System published guidelines--the first of its kind--in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology for the use of sterile versus non-sterile gels, including information about appropriate warming methods and storage of the gel.

To learn more:
- see the study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology
check out the announcement

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