The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines mandate that reusable medical equipment, such as stethoscopes, must be disinfected between patients. Even so, a recent study discovered that healthcare providers rarely perform the necessary hygiene. Frighteningly, failure to disinfect stethoscopes and other commonly used tools can lead to patient infections.
In fact, pathogens that have been cultured from stethoscopes include Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Clostridium difficile, and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. A recent Swiss study found that stethoscopes could transmit potentially resistant bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can be fatal.
Stethoscopes are used repeatedly throughout the day, and so they have the potential to spread infection from one patient to another. This could constitute a serious patient safety issue. Stethoscopes can be easily disinfected with the use of alcohol swabs, alcohol gel, or disinfectant wipes, and there is no excuse for not doing so.
Experts believe that improving stethoscope hygiene will require more consistent efforts to change culture and habits. It is also believed that routine stethoscope hygiene should be included in all hospital hand hygiene initiatives, and there should be increased accountability.
If you or someone you love has suffered from a medical mistake or hospital-acquired infection, please call the New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP at 732-777-0100, or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are centrally located in Red Bank, Toms River, and Edison, and we serve clients throughout New Jersey.