April 17, 2015

Stuffed animals bring bacteria to OR

Stuffed animals that pediatric patients bring to the operating room are a reservoir of bacteria that can be effectively sterilized in a household washer/dryer the day before surgery.


Despite efforts to minimize risk of infection after surgery, surgical-site infections (SSIs) have not been completely eliminated.

Jonathan Schoenecker, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues tested the hypothesis that stuffed animals or other “comfort” items that pediatric patients bring to the operating room may represent a reservoir of bacteria that could contribute to SSIs. The researchers swabbed stuffed animals that were brought into the operating room and quantified bacterial growth.

They report in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics that all of the stuffed animals showed bacterial growth. They further demonstrated that a single wash and dry cycle in a household washer/dryer, followed by sealing a stuffed animal in a plastic bag for 24 hours, effectively “sterilized” 79 percent of the items tested.

Although the study does not establish that stuffed animals cause SSIs, the researchers suggest that washing a comfort item one day before elective surgery may be a simple and effective way to reduce overall bacterial load in the operating room.

This research was supported by the Caitlin Lovejoy Fund.

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