Research Articles

Clinicians Must Be Aware of Risk of Cross-Transmission of Pathogens from Surfaces

Bacterial contamination of inanimate surfaces and equipment in the intensive care unit

Published: Journal of Intensive Care, December 2015


Healthcare-acquired infections, specifically those in intensive care units can cause serious illnesses, particularly those caused by multidrug-resistant pathogens. Inanimate surfaces and equipment, such as bedrails, stethoscopes, medical charts, ultrasound machines, can be contaminated by bacteria, including drug-resistant pathogens.


This meta analysis reviewed studies that indicated that ICU lead wires have been reported heavily contaminated (up to 45% of samples); stethoscopes (up to 100%); mechanical ventilators; portable radiograph equipment (up to 45%); ultrasound equipment, medical charts (80-90%), and mobile phones (94.5%). Due to the ability of healthcare workers to contaminate their hands from these surfaces and equipment and transmit into other patient areas, it is critical to understand the role of surfaces and equipment when developing infection control protocols.