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Orthopedics. 2011 Nov 9;34(11):e765-7. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20110922-09.

Do protective lead garments harbor harmful bacteria?

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, US Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam, Houston, Texas, USA.


This study attempted to identify and characterize bacteria present on shared-use protective lead shielding garments worn in the operating room. Those worn at the authors' institution were collected and swabbed in designated 5×5-cm areas. Swabs were sent to the clinical laboratory for bacterial isolation and identification. All isolates were identified using standard microbiological methods. Isolates then underwent antimicrobial susceptibility testing as per standard hospital procedures. Of 182 total collected swabs, bacteria were isolated on only 5 (2.7%) samples. Coagulase-negative Staphylococci was identified on 3 samples and the remaining 2 grew coagulase-negative Staphylococci and gram-positive rods. The collection sites for these isolates were the lead apron, midline, bottom outer surface (n=3), thyroid shield midline, inner surface (n=1), and skirt midline, bottom inner surface (n=1). Of the collected samples, 98.3% were negative for bacterial growth. The remaining isolates were consistent with common skin flora. No multi-drug resistant organisms were identified on any garments. Standard cleaning procedures at the institution are an effective way to prevent growth of bacteria on shared-use protective lead shielding garments worn in the operating room.

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