Anaesthesiologists need to improve hand hygiene

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Medical staff sterilizing hands and arms before surgery from Shutterstock
Medical staff sterilizing hands and arms before surgery from Shutterstock
Tyler Olson

Anaesthesiologists may need to improve their hand hygiene habits during surgery, because they might be putting patients at risk for infections, a new study suggests.

Researchers observed anaesthesiologists during operations and found that they had an average of 149 "hand hygiene opportunities" per hour of patient anaesthesia time.

Increases in bacterial contamination

There are five hand hygiene opportunities that help reduce the risk of health care-associated infections, according to the World Health Organisation. They are: before touching a patient; before a clean procedure; after exposure to body fluids; after touching a patient; after touching a patient's surroundings.

Read: The dangers of not washing your hands

Anaesthesiologists were least likely to properly clean their hands during the first and last 20 minutes of patient anaesthesia, which corresponds with sharp increases in bacterial contamination of the 20 most frequently touched objects during these same time periods.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Centre researchers also found that anaesthesiologists were least likely to properly clean their hands immediately before patient contact and after contact with the patient's surroundings, and most likely to properly clean their hands after potential exposure to body fluids.

Read: How dirty are your hands?

"New methods to reduce bacterial contamination of the anaesthesia work environment are needed to prevent health care-associated infections," concluded the authors of the study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Infections that occur after surgery are a common type of healthcare-associated infections. There are about 157,000 surgical site infections in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

More information

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has more about health care-associated infections.

Read more:

10 yucky hygiene facts
How often do you hand-wash?
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