The aim of this study was to determine whether compliance with infection control measures for the care of patients during and after cardiothoracic surgery could be improved by using 'plan-do-study-act' (PDSA) improvement cycles in a 715-bed university hospital. The endpoints of these cycles were indices of correct procedure based on infection control standards. The intervention consisted of instruction and training of nursing and medical staff on the use of PDSA cycles, feedback of the baseline measurements, and the use of posters in the proximity of the operating room (OR). At follow-up, overall compliance only improved in the room used by the perfusionists and the OR. After the follow-up period, monitoring revealed a drop in compliance in the OR, but improved compliance during vascular catheter care of patients with prolonged stay in the intensive care unit (ICU), and during wound care of patients on the nursing ward. The last series of monitoring showed that compliance with general infection control measures in the OR had improved again, and that compliance had remained satisfactory on the ward and in the ICU, with the exception of patients recently transferred to the ICU from the OR. The results show that by using PDSA cycles, compliance with infection control measures can improve significantly. However, repeated monitoring is necessary to ensure continued compliance.