Microbial flora on cell-phones in an orthopedic surgery room before and after decontamination

Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2016 Dec;102(8):1093-1096. doi: 10.1016/j.otsr.2016.09.014. Epub 2016 Nov 9.


Introduction: Cell-phones are the typical kind of object brought into the operating room from outside by hospital staff. A great effort is made to reduce the level of potentially contaminating bacteria in the operating room, and introducing these devices may run counter to good practice. The study hypothesis was that cell-phones are colonized by several strains of bacteria and may constitute a source of nosocomial contamination. The main study objective was to screen for bacterial colonies on the surfaces of cell-phones introduced in an orthopedic surgery room. The secondary objective was to assess the efficacy of decontamination.

Material and method: Samples were taken from the cell-phones of hospital staff (surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, radiology operators, and external medical representatives) entering the operating room of the university hospital center orthopedic surgery department, Toulouse (France). Sampling used Count Tact® contact gel, without wiping the phone down in advance. Both sides of the phone were sampled, before and after decontamination with a pad imbibed with 0.25% Surfanios® Premium disinfectant. A nasal sample was also taken to investigate the correlation between Staphylococcus aureus in the nasal cavities and on the cell-phone.

Results: Fifty-two cell-phones were sampled. Before decontamination, the mean number of colony-forming units (CFU) was 258 per phone (range, 0-1,664). After decontamination, it was 127 (range, 0-800) (P=0.0001). Forty-nine cell-phones bore CFUs before decontamination (94%), and 39 after (75%) (P=0.02).

Discussion: Cell-phones are CFU carriers and may thus lead to contamination. Guidelines should be drawn up to encourage cleaning phones regularly and to reduce levels of use within the operating room.

Keywords: Cell-phone; Contamination; Microbial flora; Operating room.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria
  • Cell Phone*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Decontamination*
  • Female
  • Fomites / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nose / microbiology
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Personnel, Hospital
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*
  • Young Adult