April 22, 2008

CSI Helps Hospitals Solve Infection Mystery

Hospital acquired infections are becoming an abundant problem in hospitals across the US (the whole globe to be fair). It is estimated that the health care industry takes on an added expenditure in excess of $4.5B due to these infections of a nosocomial origin.

But researchers at Deventer Hospital (The Netherlands) came up with the brilliantly simple plan of using Luminol, a chemical used by crime scene investigators, to detect traces of blood in their hemodialysis unit. Luminol is the stuff you see the CSI guys spray on a crime scene that reacts with microscopic amounts of blood to produce bright blue luminescence, which allows investigators to track invisible blood splashes in the environment.

This is a great idea but it kind of is a big mystery how a lot of these patients (and staff) end up with infections. With as much care that goes into creating a sterile environment there is still a relatively high incidence rate of infection picked up in the hospital. Specialists in sterile technique are brought in to review protocols and procedures to determine points of weakness in the chain of operation. But using Luminol is an easy and immensely effective tool in evaluating where blood exposures could occur. So what did the researchers find on the hemodyalisis unit?

The apparently clean unit had blood on many surfaces including cupboard handles, telephones, computer keyboards, side tables and the floor, even though some of these surfaces had been cleaned. The results can be reproduced in any hospital or doctor's office around the world and should probably become part of the infection prevention plans of most urban area hospitals.

Don't forget we're liveblogging the Pennsylvania Primary tonight so be sure to join us around 7pm Central

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