Reusable Tourniquets Used for Venipuncture Often Contaminated

By Megan Brooks

April 17, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Tourniquets, one of the most widely used and reused items in healthcare, are often contaminated with microbes that could put patients at risk, according to a new study.

Tourniquets are "fundamental to the provision of healthcare" but the rate of contamination is "worrisome," Dr. Nadia Osorio from Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra in Portugal told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues reviewed 20 relevant studies with a combined total sample size of 1,479 tourniquets used in peripheral venipuncture, the most widely performed invasive procedure in healthcare settings.

Overall contamination rates varied from 10% to 100%. In 15 studies, tourniquet contamination rates topped 70%.

Coagulase-negative staphylococci, which can cause a range of infections including skin and soft-tissue infections, were the most commonly found microorganism, present on 441 of the tourniquets analyzed.

Tourniquets were also contaminated with other species of bacteria including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella spp., Pseudomonas spp., Acinetobacter baumannii, and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, with individual contamination rates of up to 10% for each species.

Dr. Osorio presented the results in a poster April 11 at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam.

"These data reiterate the inherent risks that reusable tourniquets can pose to patient safety and care quality, related to the potential dissemination of microorganisms between patients through this medical device," the researchers conclude in their poster.

"More studies should be developed focused on the impact of the introduction of tourniquet decontamination guidelines/programs in clinical settings and professional training. Furthermore, the mandatory introduction of single-use disposable tourniquets in clinical settings should be considered," they add.

Dr. Osorio told Reuters Health the costs involved in moving to single-use disposable tourniquets would "certainly be lower than having a hospitalized patient longer."

The study had no commercial funding and the authors have no relevant conflicts of interest.


European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases 2019.


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