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, 51 (2), 79-84

Environmental Controls in Operating Theatres


Environmental Controls in Operating Theatres

S Dharan et al. J Hosp Infect.


Surgical-site infection is the leading complication of surgery. Normal skin flora of patients or healthcare workers causes more than half all infections following clean surgery, but the importance of airborne bacteria in this setting remains controversial. Modern operating theatres have conventional plenum ventilation with filtered air where particles >/=5 microm are removed. For orthopaedic and other implant surgery, laminar-flow systems are used with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters where particles >/=0.3 microm are removed. The use of ultra-clean air has been shown to reduce infection rates significantly in orthopaedic implant surgery. Few countries have set bacterial threshold limits for conventionally ventilated operating rooms, although most recommend 20 air changes per hour to obtain 50-150 colony forming units/m(3) of air. There are no standardized methods for bacterial air sampling or its frequency. With the use of HEPA filters in operating theatre ventilation, there is a tendency to apply cleanroom technology standards used in industry for hospitals. These are based on measuring the presence of particles of varying sizes and numbers, and are better suited than bacterial sampling. Environmental bacterial sampling in operating theatres should be limited to investigation of epidemics, validation of protocols, or changes made in materials which could influence the microbial content.

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