Every time a surgeon steps into an OR, the goal is the same – a positive patient outcome. While the procedure itself may be flawlessly executed, patients may still be at risk thanks to the threat of infection. In fact, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) estimates that hundreds of thousands of patients experience surgical site infections every year. While there are a number of environmental, procedural and patient-related factors that can contribute to a patient's susceptibility to infection during and after procedures, we were very interested in the results of a 2018 study performed by the ACS about the effectiveness of using sterile disposable operating room towels in the OR. In the study, the research team was surprised to find that even when surgeons used sterile towels to handle the operating room telephones during a procedure, bacteria was still able to make its way onto the doctor’s gloves. And with those gloves going near or in the open surgical sites of their patients, the possibility of infection is very real.
The researchers concluded that in order to maintain an acceptable level of sterility in the OR, something has to change:
“Bacterial pathogens readily transmit through a sterile cotton towel material. Intraoperative practices in which telephones, headgear, and loupes are adjusted by a surgeon using an interposed towel without changing gloves afterward should be reconsidered.”
But why are there bacteria there in the first place?
The World Health Organization has laid out guidelines for sanitation procedures in the operating room. However, the strictest rules related to cleaning apply to items used for the actual surgery, as well as horizontal surfaces that are likely to catch more bacteria.
As for general cleaning of the OR and other areas like dressing and technical rooms, the guidelines are much less strict – once a week is recommended. So, even though phones were the focus of the study, it references headlamps as another non-sterile item that many surgeons and their teams hold or adjust using disposable towels. The inference is that headlamps, like telephones, may also be acting as a jumping off point for bacteria to travel to the surgical team’s gloves, thereby compromising patient safety.
While headlights are often wiped down before, during and after procedures, they aren’t held to the same standards of sterilization as many of the other instruments used during surgery, especially those that do or may come into contact with the surgical site on the patient. This is one of the main reasons MezLight exists, and why we are so adamant about getting our solution into as many operating rooms as possible.
Striving for better patient outcomes.
Patient safety is of the utmost importance to us, which is why we designed a headlight alternative that helps promote a sterile OR environment. Surgeons can handle our light during surgery without using a towel to adjust the position of their illumination as they see fit throughout the operation. Plus, by taking the light source off surgeon heads, it eliminates the need for them to rely on other team members to adjust their illumination.
Of the hundreds of thousands of infections that surgical patients encounter every year, the ACS has estimated that 60% of them are avoidable. By replacing headlights in the OR with a MezLight, hospitals can take a preventative measure intended to contribute to their patients’ best chance for an outcome free of complications.