Purpose: To quantify the level of bacterial contamination of needles and sutures immediately after use in strabismus surgery.
Methods: Strabismus surgery was performed on 56 eyes from 31 pediatric strabismus surgical cases. Preoperative site preparation included instillation of 5% povidone-iodine in the conjunctival fornices in all cases. A total of 124 needles and 127 sutures were cultured immediately after final scleral passage.
Results: Seventeen of the 31 cases (54.8%) produced at least one positive specimen. Nineteen per cent of the needles and 25.2% of the sutures were culture positive. The bulk of positive specimens (96.7% of needles, 91.3% of sutures) produced 3 or less colony forming units, corresponding to 7 or less total viable organisms per needle or sutures in accordance with the dilution scheme. Coagulase-negative staphylococci overwhelmingly predominated.
Conclusions: Needles and sutures used in strabismus surgery can become contaminated during surgery despite preoperative povidone-iodine preparation. The number of viable bacterial contaminants is usually below the level known to consistently produce experimental endophthalmitis. However, a few needles and sutures carried a high contaminant load, suggesting the possibility that contaminated needles and sutures could potentially cause postoperative intraocular infection.