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Disinfecting Stethoscopes

June 18, 2020
1 minute

A recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) attempts to understand stethoscope contamination and the effect of self-reported cleaning practices among healthcare providers in a community hospital setting.

Researchers cultured 104 stethoscopes:

  • 44% from medical students and residents, 76% of those stethoscopes had bacterial growth.
  • 56% from attendings, nurses and respiratory therapists, 91.4% of which had bacterial growth.

Overall, 85.6% of providers claimed that their disinfection practices were compliant with CDC guidelines. However, there were no statistical differences between self-reported cleaning frequency or methods, and the presence of bacteria-- meaning that most stethoscopes are contaminated with bacteria, and its presence is not affected by the provider’s reported disinfection methods.

The study produced additional statistics of note:

  • 42.3% of healthcare providers reported taking their stethoscopes home on a daily basis.
  • 24% of stethoscopes were claimed to be cleaned after each patient.
  • 37.5% were cleaned once a day.
  • 25% were cleaned once a week.
  • 5.8% had never cleaned their stethoscope.

A different AJIC study from 2019 also looked at stethoscope disinfection practices during interactions between patient and providers. It found that of the 400 observed interactions, only 18% of stethoscopes were disinfected and less than 4% were verified as consistent with CDC guidelines.

Read the full study "Community hospital stethoscope cleaning practices and contamination rates" (2020) here.

Read the full study "Contemporary Stethoscope Cleaning Practices: What We Haven't Learned in 150 Years" (2019) here.