Stethoscopes more contaminated than doctors' hands
According to a new study from Switzerland, stethoscopes are often more contaminated with bacteria than physicians’ hands.
In the study, one of three physicians examined 71 patients and used sterile gloves and a sterile stethoscope. Following the examinations, the researchers looked at the amount of bacteria on different parts of the stethoscope, as well as the physicians' hands. They found that the stethoscope’s diaphragm—the part that is held against a patient’s body—was more contaminated than all regions of the physician’s hands, excluding the fingertips.
The main implication of the study’s findings is that stethoscopes in doctors’ offices—and potentially other tools—need to be routinely disinfected after each use. Currently, there are no official guidelines for cleaning stethoscopes anywhere in the world. The researchers said they hope their paper will lead to development of official sanitation guidelines.