A prototype device that automatically sanitizes all sorts of hard-to-clean equipment in the highly trafficked hospital emergency department in just 30 minutes has been developed by experts at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The 7-foot-tall, 10,000-dollar shower-cubicle-shaped device, called "SUDS," can sanitize and disinfect equipment of all shapes and sizes, from intravenous line poles and blood pressure cuffs to pulse oximeter wires and electrocardiogram (EKG) wires to computer keyboards and cellphones.
Researchers have said that the self-cleaning unit for the decontamination of small instruments has already been shown to initially disinfect noncritical equipment better than manual cleaning.
Study senior author and surgeon Dr. Bolanle Asiyanbola has revealed that the four-year SUDS project was initially sparked by the rapid rise in use of expensive disposable items, a trend linked to efforts to prevent bacterial infections among and between patients in hospitals.
And thus, drawing on her experience in the operating room, where many batches of surgical clamps, retractors and scalpels have been sterilized, decontaminated and safely re-used for decades, Asiyanbola put together a team to end what she calls the "wasteful and unnecessary" practice of wiping down a lot of heavily used items with disinfectants and applying a lot of elbow grease.
"If we can safely re-use equipment in the operating room, then we can do it elsewhere in the hospital for non-critical equipment," she said.
In the study, the researchers showed that SUDS was able to disinfect some 90 pieces of used emergency-room equipment, placing as many as 15 items in the device and "fogging" the equipment with an aerosolised, commercially available disinfectant chemical, or biocide, called Sporicidin.
In fact, none of the electronic circuitry appeared to be damaged by the decontamination process.
Instruments tested were of the type that comes in direct contact with a patient's skin, the body's key barrier to infection.
After repeated swabbing and lab culture testing of each decontaminated instrument, researchers showed that all items remained free of so-called gram-positive bacteria for two full days after cleaning, even after the equipment was returned to the emergency department and re-used.
The bacteria that SUDS managed to remove included potentially dangerous superbugs as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE).
"We believe this SUDS device has the potential to further protect our patients and staff from hospital infections and save health care dollars by making it possible to clean and re-use more kinds of hospital equipment," said Asiyanbola.
The study has been published in the Annals of Surgical Innovation and Research.