Bacteria run rampant in rad reading rooms

Pessimists who portray their work environment as a cess pool may not be too far off the mark. Bacterial counts on radiology workstation mice and microphones exceeded counts on nearby toilet seats and doorknobs, researchers found in a pilot study published online July 1 in Journal of the American College of Radiology

Potential vectors of infection, such as physicians’ clothing and stethoscopes, are ubiquitous in the hospital environment. Although a few studies have tackled imaging devices such as ultrasound probes and radiographic cassettes, none have addressed contamination within the department.

Richard Duszak Jr., MD, from Mid-South Imaging and Therapeutics in Memphis, Tenn., and colleagues designed a study to quantify and characterize bacterial contamination of workstation microphones and mice.

They sampled two inpatient and two outpatient reading rooms at two teaching hospitals in two states and used samples from toilet seats and doorknobs in the four restrooms closest to the reading rooms.

The mean colony counts for microphones were 69.4 +/- 38.7 and 46.1 +/- 58.1 for mice. Mean counts for toilet seats and restroom doorknobs were significantly lower at 10.5 +/- 9.7 and 14.8 +/- 16.0, respectively.

The researchers resampled four microphones and four mice after swabbing the devices with a commercially available antiseptic wipe, which reduced the mean bacterial counts to 0.3 +/- 0.7.

The most common bacteria were S aureus and other Staphylococcus species; enteric organisms were present in more than 20 percent of workstation and restroom samples.

Duszak and colleagues offered two recommendations for radiologists: hand hygiene and workstation disinfection. They noted that hand sanitizer dispensers may be more feasible than hand washing in the sink in the reading room environment. The authors also suggested two strategies that might increase compliance: a reminder posted at every workstation session logon and leadership support.

For more about infection prevention in radiology departments, please read “Banishing the Bugs: Portable Imaging Propels Infection Prevention,” in Health Imaging.