anesthesia hand washing

Today in things that make you go, “Ick” is the revelation that many anesthesiologists are failing to properly wash their hands when working with patients.

A new study suggests this lack of hand hygiene may be putting patients at risk for infections. On average, anesthesiologists have 149 “hand hygiene opportunities” per hour that a patient is under anesthesia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are five hand hygiene opportunities that help in reducing the risk of infections caused by health care. The five opportunities are: before touching a patient, after touching a patient, before a clean procedure, after touching a patient’s surroundings, and after exposure to bodily fluids.

Researchers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center found anesthesiologists were least likely to wash their hands properly during the first and last 20 minutes of their patient being under an anesthetic. This lack of hygiene corresponds with increases in the amount of bacterial contamination of frequently touched objects in the same time period.

Though hand washing for healthcare workers is a little more advanced than it is for us average Joes, it doesn’t seem like something you should be forgetting. WHO even has a handy (pardon the pun) infographic about the proper technique to use.

One of the study authors wrote in the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control that maybe hand hygiene needs to go further than just hand washing, stating, “New methods to reduce bacterial contamination of the anesthesia work environment are needed to prevent health care-associated infections.”

WHO reports that hundreds of millions of patients are affected by health care-associated infections per year worldwide. In developed countries, seven out of every 100 hospitalized patients will acquire at least one health care-associated infection. In the United States, these infections are responsible for 99,000 deaths per year.