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August 12, 1998

Microbiologic Contamination and Cleaning Personal Medical Equipment

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;280(6):519-520. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-6-jac057001

To the Editor.—Personal medical equipment (eg, stethoscopes) is subject to vagaries in use, storage, and cleaning. There is theoretical concern that pathogenic or antimicrobial-resistant organisms could be transmitted from place to place or patient to patient on personal medical equipment. Several studies13 have demonstrated bacteria on stethoscopes and support these concerns. Data on microbiologic contamination of other handheld medical equipment (eg, otoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and reflex hammers) are limited. However, the clinical significance of these positive culture findings is uncertain. A recent prospective study in a medical intensive care unit demonstrated probable acquisition of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus colonization in 2 patients exposed to contaminated blood pressure cuffs.4

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