A study of microbial colonisation of orthopaedic tourniquets

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2009 Mar;91(2):131-4. doi: 10.1308/003588409X359402.


Introduction: Tourniquets are employed widely in orthopaedic surgery. The use of the same tourniquet on a repetitive basis without a standard protocol for cleaning may be a source of cross-infection. This study examines the contamination of the tourniquets in our institution.

Materials and methods: Agar plates were used to take samples from 20 tourniquets employed in orthopaedic procedures. Four sites on each tourniquet were cultured and incubated at 37 degrees C for 48 h.

Results: All sampled tourniquets were contaminated with colony counts varying from 9 to > 385. Coagulase-negative Staphylococcus spp. were the most commonly grown organisms from the tourniquets (96%). Some tourniquets had growths of important pathogens including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas spp., and S. aureus. On cleaning five tourniquets with Clinell (detergent and disinfectant) wipes (GAMA Healthcare Ltd, London, UK), there was a 99.2% reduction in contamination of the tourniquets 5 min after cleaning.

Conclusions: In addition to the manufacturers' guidelines, we recommend the cleaning of tourniquets with a disinfectant wipe before every case.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Disinfectants*
  • Equipment Contamination / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures / instrumentation*
  • Tourniquets / microbiology*


  • Disinfectants