Saturday, November 22, 2008
Bacterial contamination of surgeons gloves during shunt insertion: a pilot study
Br J Neurosurg. 2008 Oct
Sørensen P, Ejlertsen T, Aaen D, Poulsen K.
Department of Neurosurgery and Department of Clinical Microbiology, University Hospital of Aalborg, Denmark.
Bacterial infection is a major cause of shunt dysfunction. It is well-known that the majority of pathogenic micro-organisms are low-virulent bacteria normally found on intact skin. Probably shunts become contaminated during surgery either by contact to the patient skin, or contact from contaminated gloves or instruments. This study was performed to find out to what extent gloves become contaminated during shunt surgery. Gloves used during shunt implantation were examined in 10 operations. Shunt implantation was done using recommended precautions to avoid infection, including prophylactic antibiotics and double gloving, by surgeons experienced in shunt surgery. Surgical incision, dissection and tunnelling were done. Then the surgeon, the scrub-nurse and, in three cases, the assistant made an imprint of their outer gloves on agar plates. Hereafter, they changed the outer pair of gloves before handling the shunt and completing the operation. The plates were cultured for 6 days in both aerobic and anaerobic environment. In all cases the surgeons gloves were contaminated, and in six cases also the nurses' gloves were contaminated, as well as all three assistants. Propionebacterium acnes were cultured from gloves in all 10 operations and coagulase-negative Staphylococci were found in eight operations. These results are preliminary, but nevertheless they are alarming. Despite the use of recommended precautions to avoid infections we found that a substantial numbers of gloves from surgeon, scrub nurse and assistant were contaminated with micro-organisms less than 15 min after surgery has been commenced and before the shunts were handled. This study offers a feasible, simple and logical explanation of how shunts may become contaminated and infected. A simple measure would be to change the outer pairs of gloves before handling of the shunt material during surgery, as was done in this study, where non-shunt infections were observed.