Reusable venesection tourniquets: a potential source of hospital transmission of multiresistant organisms

Med J Aust. 2011 Sep 5;195(5):276-9. doi: 10.5694/mja11.10333.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of multiresistant organism (MRO) colonisation of reusable venesection tourniquets.

Design and setting: A prospective study in a tertiary hospital to collect and analyse reusable venesection tourniquets for the presence of MROs - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), and extended-spectrum β-lactamase and metallo-β-lactamase-producing Enterobacteriaceae - using a sensitive enrichment method. Tourniquets were collected and tested during a 10-week period between September and November 2010.

Main outcome measure: Prevalence of MRO colonisation of tourniquets.

Results: The overall colonisation rate of 100 tourniquets randomly collected from general wards, ambulatory care areas and critical care areas was 78%. MROs were isolated from 25 tourniquets collected from a variety of hospital locations, including general wards, the intensive care unit, burns unit and anaesthetic bay. MRSA was isolated from 14 tourniquets and VRE from 19; both MRSA and VRE were isolated from nine tourniquets. There were no microorganisms isolated from 22 tourniquets.

Conclusion: Reusable tourniquets can be colonised with MROs and may be a potential source of transmission of MROs to hospitalised patients.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Load
  • Cross Infection / microbiology*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Enterobacteriaceae
  • Enterococcus
  • Equipment Reuse / standards*
  • Humans
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus
  • New South Wales
  • Phlebotomy / instrumentation*
  • Tourniquets / microbiology*
  • Tourniquets / standards*
  • Vancomycin Resistance
  • beta-Lactam Resistance
  • beta-Lactamases


  • beta-lactamase IMP-1
  • beta-Lactamases