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Aust N Z J Med. 1999 Feb;29(1):9-14.

A cost-analysis of two approaches to infection control in a lung function laboratory.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, Alfred Hospital, Monash University Medical School, Melbourne, Vic.



The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) guidelines for infection control in respiratory laboratories are based on a 'Universal Precautions' approach to patient care. This requires that one-way breathing valves, flow sensors, and other items, be cleaned and disinfected between patient use. However, this is impractical in a busy laboratory. The recent introduction of disposable barrier filters may provide a practical solution to this problem, although most consider this approach to be an expensive option.


To compare the cost of implementing the TSANZ infection control guidelines with the cost of using disposable barrier filters.


Costs were based on the standard tests and equipment currently used in the lung function laboratory at The Alfred Hospital. We have assumed that a barrier filter offers the same degree of protection against cross-infection between patients as the TSANZ infection control guidelines. Time and motion studies were performed on the dismantling, cleaning, disinfecting, reassembling and re-calibrating of equipment. Conservative estimates were made as to the frequency of replacing pneumotachographs and rubber mouthpieces based on previous equipment turnover. Labour costs for a scientist to reprocess the equipment was based on $20.86/hour. The cost of employing a casual cleaner at an hourly rate of $14.07 to assist in reprocessing equipment was also investigated. The new high efficiency HyperFilter disposable barrier filter, costing $2.95 was used in this cost-analysis.


The cost of reprocessing equipment required for spirometry alone was $17.58 per test if a scientist reprocesses the equipment, and $15.56 per test if a casual cleaner is employed to assist the scientist in performing these duties. In contrast, using a disposable filter would cost only $2.95 per test. Using a filter was considerably less expensive than following the TSANZ guidelines for all tests and equipment used in this cost-analysis.


The TSANZ infection control guidelines are expensive and impractical to implement. However, disposable barrier filters provide a practical and inexpensive method of infection control.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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