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Am J Crit Care. 2004 May;13(3):235-41.

Comparison of traditional and disposable bed baths in critically ill patients.

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  • 1Columbia University School of Nursing, New York, USA.



For bedridden patients unable to perform personal hygiene measures because of acute illness or chronic debilitation, the bed bath, with either the traditional basin or, more recently, disposable baths, has long been a measure for improving hygiene and costs.


To compare the traditional basin bed bath with a prepackaged disposable bed bath in terms of 4 outcomes: time and quality of bath, microbial counts on the skin, nurses' satisfaction, and costs.


Forty patients in surgical, medical, or cardiothoracic intensive care units received both types of bath on different days. Baths were observed, timed, and scored for quality. Cultures of the peri-umbilicus and groin were obtained before and after each bath. At the end of the study, nurses were interviewed about their preferences.


Neither total quality scores nor microbial counts differed significantly between the 2 bath types. Significantly fewer products (P < .001) and less time were used, cost was lower, and nurses' ratings were significantly better with the disposable bath.


The disposable bath is a desirable form of bathing for patients who are unable to bathe themselves in critical care and long-term care settings, and it may even be preferable to the traditional basin bath.

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