oa Southern African Journal of Critical Care - Contamination of pulse oximeter probes before and after decontamination in two intensive care units - research

Volume 35 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1562-8264
  • E-ISSN: 2078-676X



Background. The internal surfaces of pulse oximeter probes may be overlooked as hot spots for pathogenic microorganisms in an intensive care unit (ICU), thereby contributing to the high incidence of hospital-acquired infections.
Objectives. To determine the growth and identification of microorganisms on pulse oximeter probes in the multidisciplinary ICU (MICU) at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and the burns ICU (BICU) at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, before and after decontamination.
Methods. This was a cross-sectional, comparative and contextual study, using purposive sampling. Data were collected from the internal surfaces of 34 pulse oximeter probes in a MICU and BICU. Each pulse oximeter probe was swabbed before and after decontamination. The endemic microorganism profile for the two ICUs was obtained from a laboratory database.
Results. Internal surfaces of 31 (91%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.76 - 0.98) pulse oximeter probes were contaminated with 9 different pathogenic microorganisms pre decontamination. Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were endemic to both ICUs, and were the most-frequently isolated microorganisms. Staphylococcus aureus was the most common microorganism endemic to both ICUs, isolated on the internal surfaces of only 2 pulse oximeter probes. Of the internal surfaces of pulse oximeter probes, 6 (18%; 95% CI 0.07 - 0.35) remained contaminated post decontamination, with a microorganism growth reduction of 80% (p=0.0001).
Conclusion. The internal surfaces of pulse oximeter probes may serve as hot spots for an array of pathogens with the

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