Alali SA, et al. Am J Infect Control 2020.
BACKGROUND: In the United States, nosocomial infections are estimated to cause 72,000 annual deaths. The stethoscope, commonly used, is rarely reported as a potential vector. Our study aims to describe stethoscope contamination and the effect of self-reported cleaning practices among health care providers in a community hospital setting.
METHODS: Stethoscopes were collected at random times from health care providers and cultured per standard techniques. Providers answered a structured questionnaire related to their cleaning practices. Differences in bacterial growth rates and the impact of profession, cleaning frequency, and prior sanitization were evaluated.
RESULTS: Of 104 cultured stethoscopes, 44% were from residents and medical students, from which 76% had bacterial growth, and 56% were from attendings, nurses, and respiratory therapists who had 91.4% growth (95% = confidence interval 0.62-0.86 and 0.81-0.96, respectively). Overall, 86.5% of providers claimed disinfection frequency compliant with Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines but there were no statistical differences between self-reported cleaning frequency or methods, and the presence of bacteria.
CONCLUSIONS: Most stethoscopes are contaminated with bacteria, the presence of which was not affected by reported cleaning strategies.