Intra-cavity ultrasound probes still pose a risk of cross-infecting patients even after undergoing a standard manual disinfection procedure, a new Australian study has found. The process of soaking the probes in a liquid disinfectant usually leaves large quantities of bacteria on the handles.
Ultrasound picture from Shutterstock
Researchers from the East Melbourne Ultrasound Clinic tested for bacteria on the handles of 51 intra-cavity ultrasound probes which had undergone a standard decontamination process. They discovered that almost all swab samples collected from manually decontaminated probes showed signs of bacteria on the handle after the disinfection process.
"The inability to fully submerge these probes in the liquid disinfectant creates a safe haven for bacteria on the handle,” said chief researcher Dr Andrew Ngu.
"While it is important to note these probes are used with a protective sheath, and the handle does not enter the body, the presence of bacteria on a medical device does pose a risk of cross-infection for patients."
The report concludes that stricter disinfection standards or techniques are required to ensure high-level disinfection of the entire probe including its handle. In the meantime, if you're expecting a baby and require an intra-cavity ultrasound probe, it might be a good idea to bring along some anti-bacterial wet wipes.
Alternatively, stick to a hospital that uses trophon EPR decontamination units which were found to remove all traces of infectious bacteria in the study.