Previous studies have indicated that tourniquets may act as reservoirs of pathogenic organisms and could therefore pose a risk to patients through cross-infection. In this study, 200 tourniquets were sampled from health professionals working in a large teaching hospital. A parallel survey of control of infection was also undertaken. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated from 10 (5%) of the tourniquets sampled. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus was not isolated. Seventy-five (37.5%) of the tourniquets sampled had visible blood stains; house officers (72.7%) and laboratory phlebotomists (69.2%) had the highest proportion of blood-stained tourniquets. Tourniquets were owned on average for 1.86 years, with most respondents only obtaining a new tourniquet when the old tourniquet was lost. Three percent of respondents used a separate tourniquet for patients with known infective risk factors, e.g. HIV, MRSA. Twenty-seven percent of respondents did not wear gloves for venepuncture or did so only occasionally. Only 42% washed their hands both before and after venepuncture. Our survey reveals poor infection control practice, but a relatively low frequency of S. aureus contamination of tourniquets.
Copyright 2001 The Hospital Infection Society.