Use of alcohol hand sanitizer as an infection control strategy in an acute care facility

Am J Infect Control. 2003 Apr;31(2):109-16. doi: 10.1067/mic.2003.15.


Background: Nosocomial infections are a major problem in health care facilities, resulting in extended durations of care, substantial morbidity and mortality, and excess costs. Since alcohol gel hand sanitizers combine high immediate antimicrobial efficacy with ease of use, this study was carried out to determine the effect of the use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer by caregivers on infection types and rates in an acute care facility. Patients were educated about the study through a poster on the unit, and teachable patients were given portable bottles of the alcohol hand gel for bedside use, along with an educational brochure explaining how and why to practice good hand hygiene.

Methods: Infection rate and type data were collected in 1 unit of a 498-bed acute care facility for 16 months (February 2000 to May 2001). An alcohol gel hand sanitizer was provided and used by caregivers in the orthopedic surgical unit of the facility during this period.

Results: The primary infection types (more than 80%) found were urinary tract (UTI) and surgical site (SSI) infections. Infection types and rates for the unit during the period the alcohol hand sanitizer (intervention) was used were compared with the infection types and rates for the same unit when the alcohol hand sanitizer was not used (baseline); the results demonstrated a 36.1% decrease in infection rates for the 10-month period that the hand sanitizer was used.

Conclusion: This study indicates that use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer can decrease infection rates and provide an additional tool for an effective infection control program in acute care facilities.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Cross Infection / economics
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hand Disinfection / methods
  • Hand Disinfection / standards
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Orthopedics / standards
  • Probability
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Ethanol