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Are thermolabile splints a source of nosocomial infection?

Journal of Hospital Infection
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0195-6701(94)90079-5
  • Burns
  • Thermolabile Splints
  • Disinfection
  • Nosocomial Infection


Abstract The aim of this study was to determine whether thermolabile splints used on burned patients became colonized with microbes from the underlying burn or were capable of contaminating burn wounds, and to determine whether the current thermoplastic splint decontamination regimen was effective at removing contaminating bacteria. One hundred and thirty-one standardized swab samples were collected from 28 splints before and after cleaning, and from burn wounds of 10 patients. Qualitative bacterial cultures and identification of isolates were performed. Just over one third of all splints sampled before cleaning were contaminated with bacteria. This compared with over half of the burn wound samples and 17% of the splints sampled after cleaning. Most of the isolates were Gram-positive species including coagulase-negative staphylococci (18), Staphylococcus aureus (12), Bacillus spp. (17) and one isolate of viridans streptococcus. Only five Gram-negative isolates were detected. On only one occasion did the wound and the splint before cleaning have the same organism isolated. Cold disinfection every 24 h was adequate to decontaminate thermolabile splints used on burn patients provided the burn bacterial count was low and care was taken to handle the splints in order to avoid re-contaminating them with health care workers' flora. Thermolabile splints could be a source of burn colonization microbes, but with adequate ward cleaning they were not found to be a problem in our practice.

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