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J Hosp Infect. 1996 Aug;33(4):263-72.

Inefficiency of upward displacement operating theatre ventilation.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedaedics, Northern University Hospital, UmeĆ„, Sweden.


A new thermally based ventilation system ('Floormaster') with inlet of cool clean air at floor level, and evacuation at the ceiling of the air warmed by activity in the room (upward displacement ventilation, 17 air changes/h) was compared with a standard positive pressure (plenum) ventilation system with air supply through an inclined perforated screen along one wall at the ceiling and evacuation at floor level (conventional turbulent or mixing system, 16 air changes/h). The study was made during rigidly standardized sham operations (N = 20) performed in the same operating room by a six-member team wearing non-woven disposable or cotton clothing. In general the upward displacement system removed dust particles too small to carry bacteria (0.16-<0.3 microm, 0.001<P<0.01) more efficiently than the conventional system. However, the displacement system also yielded two to threefold higher air and surface bacterial counts in areas important for surgical asepsis (wound area, instrument table) especially with regard to bacterial sedimentation (0.001<P<0.05). The major shortcoming of the displacement system was insufficient elimination of the larger bacteria-carrying particles. The type of clothing worn by the members of the team did not influence the overall results. We conclude that an upward displacement system will lead to increased counts of airborne and sedimenting bacteria and thus increase the risk of postoperative infection in comparison with conventional operating room ventilation systems.

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