Stethoscopes Harbor More Bacteria than Palm of Physician’s Hand after Exam

March 7, 2014 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


A stethoscope used to examine patients can harbor more bacteria than the palm of the provider’s dominant hand after just one exam, concludes a study published in the March 2014 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The findings suggest that stethoscopes may need to be cleaned and disinfected after every patient the same way that other potentially infectious devices and surfaces are treated. In the study, 71 patients were examined by one of three physicians using sterile gloves and a sterile stethoscope. Following the examination, researchers measured the number of bacteria present on the stethoscope’s tube and diaphragm, as well as four regions of the physician’s hands.

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