Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Navigating the NHS

Stethoscopes 'pose infection risk'

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
Stethescope

28th February 2014 – Doctors should disinfect their stethoscopes after each clinical examination because they can be a major source of bacterial contamination, says a study.

Researchers in Geneva found that the diaphragm on the end of the stethoscope had higher bacteria levels than almost every part of a doctor's hand.

Lead investigator Dr Didier Pittet, from the University of Geneva Hospitals, says in a statement: "From infection control and patient safety perspectives, the stethoscope should be regarded as an extension of the physician's hands and be disinfected after every patient contact."

Contamination

In this study, 71 patients were examined by one of three doctors using sterile gloves and a sterile stethoscope. After each examination, two parts of the stethoscope (the tube and diaphragm) and four regions of the doctors' hands were measured for the total number of bacteria present.

The stethoscope's diaphragm was found to be more contaminated than all regions of the doctor's hand except the fingertips. Also, the tube of the stethoscope was more heavily contaminated than the back of the doctor's hand.

Similar results were found after doctors' examined patients contaminated with MRSA.

Hand hygiene

The authors of the study, published in the March issue of Mayo Clinical Proceedings, say that doctors must be aware of the need to disinfect their stethoscope after each use.

Dr Pittet explains: "By considering that stethoscopes are used repeatedly over the course of a day, come directly into contact with patients' skin, and may harbour several thousands of bacteria (including MRSA) collected during a previous physical examination, we consider them as potentially significant vectors of transmission."

One doctor in the UK tells us that making sure stethoscopes are clean should be a basic procedure for all medical professionals.

Infection control

Birmingham GP Dr Clare Taylor, a council member for the Royal College of General Practitioners, says: "GPs are more aware than ever of the importance of maintaining hygiene standards to protect our patients.

"I regularly clean my own stethoscope with alcohol wipes and ensure I wash or sanitise my hands after every patient. It's part of our role to ensure we do everything we can to prevent the spread of infection."

Published on February 28, 2014

Popular Slideshows & Tools on Boots WebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
fish n chips
Diarrhoea & more
man coughing
10 common allergy triggers
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
hand extinguishing cigarette
13 best tips to stop smoking
woman washing face
Living and dealing with eczema
boy looking at broccoli
Quick tips for feeding picky eaters
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
dogs face
Workout with Fido
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting