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Anaesthesia. 2009 Jun;64(6):620-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2009.05892.x.

Bacterial contamination of stethoscopes on the intensive care unit.

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  • 1Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.

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  • Anaesthesia. 2009 Aug;64(8):928.


We assessed how often bedside stethoscopes in our intensive care unit were cleaned and whether they became colonised with potentially pathogenic bacteria. On two separate days the 12 nurses attending the bedspaces were questioned about frequency of stethoscope cleaning on the unit and the bedside stethoscopes were swabbed before and after cleaning to identify colonising organisms. Twenty-two health care providers entering the unit were asked the same questions and had their personal stethoscopes swabbed. All 32 non-medical staff cleaned their stethoscopes at least every day; however only three out of the 12 medical staff cleaned this often. Out of 24 intensive care unit bedside stethoscopes tested, two diaphragms and five earpieces were colonised with pathogenic bacteria. MRSA cultured from one earpiece persisted after cleaning. Three out of the 22 personal stethoscope diaphragms and five earpieces were colonised with pathogens. After cleaning, two diaphragms and two earpieces were still colonised, demonstrating the importance of regular cleaning.

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