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Contaminated Stethoscopes?

February 28, 2014

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When it comes to sources of bacterial contamination in clinical care, researchers have identified a new public enemy stethoscopes.

According to a new study published in the journal Mayo Clinics Proceedings when the ever-present stethoscope comes into contact with a patient's skin just once it can end up even more contaminated than a doctor's hand.

To explore the issue experts spent 5 months in 2009 analyzing bacterial content on sterile stethoscopes following examination of 71 patients at a Swiss university teaching hospital. The 3 attending doctors who either wore sterile gloves or scrubbed down before examining patients also offered their dominant hand for analysis.

The investigators found that the flat diaphragm section of the stethoscope was more contaminated with either general bacteria, or the difficult-to-treat MRSA bacteria than any part of a physician's hand, except for the fingertips. And the stethoscope's tube was saddled with more bacteria than the back of a doctor's hand.

The team concluded that stethoscope contamination is a real concern, and called for doctors to routinely disinfect the device between patients.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, bringing you another ounce of prevention.