Bacterial contamination and cleanliness of emergency department ultrasound probes

Geoffrey E. Sanz, Jonathan Theoret, Michael M. Liao, Catherine Erickson, John L. Kendall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objectives: As ultrasonography is increasingly used in the emergency department (ED), ultrasound equipment has become a potential threat to infection control. Improperly cleaned ultrasound probes may serve as a vector for pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of MRSA colonization on ultrasound probes used in a busy, urban ED. It was hypothesized that cultures of our ED ultrasound probes would yield a significant number of positive results for MRSA. Methods: In this observational study, 11 ED ultrasound probes were randomly sampled on 10 different occasions. Samples were taken using a RODAC plate method and were cultured for MRSA and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). On half of the randomly assigned sampling occasions, a visual inspection of each ultrasound probe for general cleanliness was conducted and recorded. Data were stratified by ultrasound location in the ED and analyzed using the Fisher exact test, with p ≤ 0.05 deemed to be statistically significant. Results: Of 110 samples, no isolates of MRSA were cultured. One probe yielded a positive culture for MSSA. Probes in the medicine, trauma, and pediatrics areas were found to be clean 65%, 33%, and 70% of the time, respectively. This variability in probe cleanliness by ED location was found to be statistically significant (p ≤ 0.01). Conclusions: Contrary to our hypothesis, MRSA contamination of ultrasound probes was not found. This finding suggests that the spread of MRSA by ED ultrasound machines in a high-volume urban ED is unlikely. Further research at different centres with larger sample sizes is required before these results can be generalized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-389
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Contamination
  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
  • Mrsa
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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