How sterile is ‘sterile’
"79.5% of ultrasound probe handles showed signs of contamination…"
There is increasing evidence that the conventional method used by most hospitals, clinics, and imaging centers to sterilize ultrasound probes used for many obstetric and gynecological evaluations is inadequate.
One recent study found that up to 79.5% of ultrasound probe handles showed signs of contamination (including the antibiotic resistant “superbug” known as MRSA) despite undergoing the conventional disinfection process which uses a toxic surface disinfectant known as gluteraldehyde to wipe down and clean the probes.
The most recent report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on the guidelines for disinfection of healthcare facilities addresses this concern, stating (summarizing) that the main problem is that the surface disinfectant is not left in contact with the probes long enough to be effective.
The CDC states “High level disinfection with a product (e.g. hydrogen peroxide) that is not toxic to staff and patients should be used…” Despite the recommendation, most facilities still use the more conventional method, in large part, because of the traditionally cheaper cost.
The solution? Spend the money and sterilize properly. See the image above. There are now machines which use microscopically aerosolized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize ultrasound probes with a cycle guaranteed to ensure sterility between patients. The by-products are completely non-toxic…oxygen and water.
Not every new piece of technology in healthcare is worth it…but I believe that this is one case which is. By the way, I have no relationship with the manufacturers of these machines, but I wholeheartedly support their use.
-Ryan Polselli, M.D.