Spotlight on non-critical device disinfection echoes TJC ultrasound findings

By Lia Moshkanbaryans, PhD

This November, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) has spotlighted the need to reduce infection risk from non-critical medical devices.1

Non-critical items contact intact skin and can be shared frequently between patients (e.g. stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs). Non-critical devices require cleaning followed by low or intermediate level disinfection, to help protect patients.

The APIC brief reports non-critical devices can serve as overlooked pathogen reservoirs that can lead to infection:

“The literature shows that some of the most-overlooked sources of contamination in healthcare settings are items deemed “non-critical”...When items are labeled “non-critical,” they will be perceived as such—and the importance of cleaning and disinfecting these items will likely be a low priority.”1

This August, The Joint Commission (TJC) reported 22% of hospitals were non-compliant with their standard on cleaning and low-level disinfection of medical equipment, including ultrasound probes.2 Surveyors observed:

“A surface ultrasound transducer used on intact skin was neither cleaned nor disinfected, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use.”2

Ultrasound is used in almost every healthcare setting, and a surface probe can be assigned a different Spaulding classification3 depending on how it will be used in a given procedure. While TJC also observed gaps in semi-critical and critical probe disinfection, the report indicates non-critical ultrasound probes are also on the surveyor agenda.

The APIC brief presents strategies to help organizations prevent infection from general non-critical medical devices. These include consulting with knowledgable infection prevention teams, observing disinfectant material compatibility and label contact times, staff education, monitoring compliance with feedback and considering human factors-oriented solutions.

"However, many healthcare organizations are not yet taking full advantage of human factors–oriented solutions, which, as the Armstrong Institute notes, “make it ‘easy to do things right and hard to do things wrong.’”1

  1. Read the APIC Brief “Strategies to Mitigate Cross Contamination of Non-critical Medical Devices”
  2. Read news on TJC Surveyors’ observations related to reprocessing ultrasound transducers
  3. Learn about the FDA and CDC guidelines on the Spaulding Classification

Lia Moshkanbaryans, PhD is the global clinical communications manager at Nanosonics Ltd


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