Wipe it down!

There's a short paper in American Journal of Infection Control that looks at stethoscope contamination. The authors cultured 112 stethoscopes; 48 (43%) were found to have pathogens on the diaphragms. Of the 50 pathogens isolated, 3 were gram-negative rods, 4 were E. faecalis, and 43 were S. aureus. Of the S. aureus isolates, 18 were MRSA. Despite the fact that stethoscope contamination is common, I see little effort in the infection prevention community to address this. So here's another reminder to wipe down that stethoscope!

Photo: KREM.com


  1. Given the minimal benefit of using a stethoscope (physical diagnosis skills continue to deteriorate) and the potential harm, one wonders if use could be restricted to cases where stethoscopes will actually impact the care of the patient. I find myself listening to hearts and lungs every day even when my daily exam will not change treatments. Exams are useful on admission and when there is a clinical change, but perhaps habits should be changed?

  2. In hindsight I can see how stethoscopes could pass on infection. This is a great, simple tip on how we can reduce patient to patient contamination.


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