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Home-Laundered Surgical Scrubs Show Greater Bacterial Contamination

Fri, 01/08/2010 - 5:39am

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Study shows bacterial contamination associated with home-laundered surgical scrubs is significantly greater than other options. Facility-laundered, third-party laundered and single-use scrubs are “cleaner.”

January 8, 2010

A study comparing the aerobic bacterial bioburden associated with surgical scrub attire shows significantly greater contamination among home-laundered attire than scrubs laundered by the healthcare facility, scrubs sent out by the facility to a third-party company for laundering, or single use/disposable scrubs. 

In fact, home-laundered scrubs cleaned and ready to wear had as much bacteria present as facility-laundered, third-party laundered and single-use scrubs which had been worn for one day.

Conducted in the Spring of 2009, the study was performed by Bioscience Laboratories, Inc., of Bozeman, Mont., and sponsored by Molnlycke Health Care US, LLC.  A total of 80 surgical scrub garments, tops and bottoms, prior to use and after use in the operating room for a day, were collected from multiple healthcare facilities across the U.S. They comprised 10 sets of scrubs in each category: single-use; home-laundered; facility-laundered; and third-party laundered. 

The study showed no statistically significant difference in bacterial contamination among facility-laundered, third-party laundered or single-use scrubs prior to use (“clean”), but revealed that the bioburden found on home-laundered scrubs prior to use (“clean”) was significantly greater than on any of the other garments (facility-laundered, third-party laundered or single-use, non-woven) that had been worn for a day in the operating room.

“According to these results, a healthcare professional beginning his or her shift in home-laundered scrubs would essentially be wearing scrubs with the same quantity of bacteria as the scrubs of a healthcare professional finishing a shift in worn scrubs,” says Heather Beitz, BA MEd, Director of Clinical Research for Mölnlycke Health Care.

“This study indicates that home-laundering is not as effective as facility- or third-party laundering in decontaminating surgical scrub attire,” Beitz explains.  “Another option, of course, is single-use surgical attire. In addition to eliminating cross-contamination concerns as indicated in this study, single-use scrubs are durable and designed for daily use in a variety of surgical procedures and acute care needs and can reduce replacement costs,” she added.

Mölnlycke Health Care manufacturers BARRIER® surgical scrub suits and jackets, non-woven single-use products that provide comfort with the soft feel of cotton. They specifically benefit departments such as trauma, isolation, ER, NICU (for parents), L&D (for fathers), cath and GI labs, oncology, and radiology/interventional radiology.

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