Study: Stethoscopes often contaminated with bacteria, MRSA

USA Today reports that “with germs from many patients coming into contact with stethoscopes each day,” research “published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings … suggests the stethoscope should be subject to the same sanitary procedures as doctors’ hands.”

For “the study, 83 patients were examined by one of three physicians using sterile gloves and a sterile stethoscope.” Following “the examination, the researchers measured the bacteria on the stethoscope diaphragms or the cool part that touches the patient’s skin, as well as the stethoscope tube and four regions of the doctors’ hands.”

The New York Times “Well” blog reports that “fingertips on the doctors’ dominant hands were the most contaminated, but the part of the stethoscope that touches the patients’ skin held more than twice as much bacteria as the physicians’ palms.”

The researchers also found that “the stethoscopes were more contaminated with MRSA than some parts of the palms, but not others.”

The NPR “Shots” blog points out that “while there are guidelines that recommend that all doctors wash their hands before and after visiting each patient, there are none mandating that small medical equipment like stethoscopes should also be disinfected after every single use.”

On its website, NBC News reports that this research “add[s] to evidence that health workers should regularly clean their tools, said Dr. Dan Diekema, president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.”

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