Portable Ultraviolet Light Surface-Disinfecting Devices for Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Infections: A Health Technology Assessment

Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2018 Feb 7;18(1):1-73. eCollection 2018.


Background: Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are infections that patients contract while in the hospital that were neither present nor developing at the time of admission. In Canada an estimated 10% of adults with short-term hospitalization have HAIs. According to 2003 Canadian data, between 4% and 6% of these patients die from these infections. The most common HAIs in Ontario are caused by Clostridium difficile. The standard method of reducing and preventing these infections is decontamination of patient rooms through manual cleaning and disinfection. Several portable no-touch ultraviolet (UV) light systems have been proposed to supplement current hospital cleaning and disinfecting practices.

Methods: We searched for studies published from inception of UV disinfection technology to January 23, 2017. We compared portable UV surface-disinfecting devices used together with standard hospital room cleaning and disinfecting versus standard hospital cleaning and disinfecting alone. The primary outcome was HAI from C. difficile. Other outcomes were combined HAIs, colonization (i.e., carrying an infectious agent without exhibiting disease symptoms), and the HAI-associated mortality rate. We used Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) to rate the quality of evidence of included studies. We also performed a 5-year budget impact analysis from the hospital's perspective. This assessment was limited to portable devices and did not examine wall mounted devices, which are used in some hospitals.

Results: The database search for the clinical review yielded 10 peer-reviewed publications that met eligibility criteria. Three studies focused on mercury UV-C-based technology, seven on pulsed xenon UV technology. Findings were either inconsistent or produced very low-quality evidence using the GRADE rating system. The intervention was effective in reducing the rate of the composite outcome of HAIs (combined) and colonization (but quality of evidence was low). For the review of economic studies, 152 peer-reviewed publications were identified and screened. No studies met the inclusion criteria. Under the assumption that two devices would be purchased per hospital, we estimated the 5-year budget impact of $586,023 for devices that use the pulsed xenon technology and of $634,255 for devices that use the mercury technology.

Conclusions: We are unable to make a firm conclusion about the effectiveness of this technology on HAIs given the very low to low quality of evidence. The budget impact estimates are sensitive to assumptions made about the number of UV disinfecting devices purchased per hospital, frequency of daytime use, and staff time required per use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Clostridioides difficile / growth & development
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / microbiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Disinfection / instrumentation
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Hospital Costs
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Mercury*
  • Patients' Rooms*
  • Technology
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Xenon*


  • Xenon
  • Mercury