Sphygmomanometers which are used to assess a patient’s haemodynamic status in the healthcare setting come into direct contact with patients’ skin. However, there has been no study conducted in the UK to establish if the blood pressure cuffs (BPCs) carry a risk of transmitting infection between subjects. Further, there is no standardised protocol advocating the importance of sterilisation of the surface of BPC which implies that BPCs are not considered to be a significant risk as fomites or that they pose no pathogenic risk for nosocomial infections. The current study was carried out to evaluate the potential pathogenic hazard of BPCs in a district general hospital setting.Methods
Prospectively, the presence of bacterial organisms on all the 120 BPCs in 14 medical wards and outpatient clinics in a district general hospital in London in February 2013 were assessed.Swabs were taken from the inner aspect of the cuffs in order to evaluate the presence of bacterial species in direct contact with the patient’s skin. Samples were cultured using standard microbiological techniques in the Microbiology Department.Results
Bacterial organisms were found in 85% (102) of the 120 BPCs assessed. The highest rates of contamination were found in the Outpatients department (90%), though post-hoc analyses of these differences in contamination rates were not statistically significant. There were differences in the most common bacterial species isolated between the samples obtained from the outpatient clinics and the wards with coagulase negative staphylococcus and diphtheroids being the most prevalent species in the wards and outpatient clinics respectively. All BPC samples showed 100% bacterial contamination in the Coronary Care unit (n = 9 BPCs) and 2 Outpatient Departments (7 BPCs). Further, we found that 5.8% of BPCs had 3 types of bacteria contaminating the BPC, 35% had 2 types and 44.2% only had a single type isolate.Conslusion
There is a significant risk of infection every time a patient’s blood pressure measured, as the majority of BPCs serve as a reservoir for different bacterial organisms. These findings highlight the necessity for the implementation of new protocols to remove this risk.