Use of dirty stethoscopes may be very harmful for patients as this can increase the risk of contracting infections by antibiotic-resistant superbugs, scientists including those of Indian-origin told.
Researchers from Yale University in the US doctors rarely care about hygiene of the stethoscope between patient encounters, despite it is really important to prevent infection.
A quality improvement pilot project was conducted by the researchers in which stethoscope hygiene was observed (alcohol swabs, alcohol gel, or disinfectant wipes) at the start of a four-week rotation for medical students, resident physicians, and attending physicians at an academic teaching hospital.
The baseline observation of stethoscope hygiene among staff found zero occurrences. Hand hygiene that included alcohol gel or soap and water was also examined.
The team then took the initiative to educate the clinicians about the importance of stethoscope hygiene and also stressed that clinicians were expected to conduct stethoscope hygiene between each encounter. Despite this there were same results: zero occurrences of stethoscope sanitation.
Compared to the stethoscope hygiene, hand hygiene has got much more importance traditionally, but according to the microbiology data, contamination of the stethoscope after a single exam is comparable to that of the physician’s dominant hand, researchers including Naseema Merchant told.
Potential pathogens cultured from stethoscopes include Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Clostridium difficile, and vancomycin-resistant enterococci.
A previous study found that stethoscopes were capable of transmitting potentially resistant bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
“The results highlights how rarely stethoscope hygiene is performed. Standard education may not be the answer to this problem. Behavioural and cultural modification to improve hand hygiene still remains a challenge, despite being studied in large randomised trials,” said researchers, including Shaili Gupta.
“We anticipated low stethoscope hygiene rates, but were surprised that no one performed stethoscope hygiene, despite the fact that it is on the checklist for second-year medical students’ final evaluation demonstrating competency in performing a complete history and physical at our institution,” they said.
The study was published in the American Journal of Infection Control.
(With PTI inputs)