Study Reveals Hospital Pillows May Be A Potential Source For HAIs

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 7:42am

New clinical research presented at the American Medical Directors Association annual conference found that even when patient rooms and linens are cleaned using strictly enforced protocols, a significant portion of hospital pillows remain contaminated with HAI-causing pathogens. Victor Lange, MSPH, CRC presented his findings as a poster presentation titled: “Reusable Vinyl Covered Hospital Pillows a Reservoir for Nosocomial Pathogens: the Importance of Adequate Decontamination.”

Researchers have projected that approximately 20 percent to 40 percent of HAIs are associated with cross contamination by way of contact contamination from the hands of healthcare personnel who have touched contaminated patients or contaminated environmental surfaces. The study found that when harmful pathogens are present on a patient’s pillow, they can resist disinfection efforts and remain a viable source for potential infection or cross infection for those who come in contact with the pillow surface. Another variable is patient room cleanliness and disinfection, which can greatly vary from facility to facility and from person to person. 

The study exemplifies the issue of patient pillows as a potential source for HAI pathogens. One hundred  randomly selected vinyl pillows were swabbed to determine if harmful germs remained on the pillow surface after disinfection by environmental services. The results showed that 38 percent of pillows that had been disinfected and ready for patient use were found to harbor pathogens known to cause HAIs. The standard hospital pillow gives the appearance of a clean and safe environment for the patient to lay their head and face on; yet this study reveals reusable hospital pillows may pose a risk for HAIs.

Details of the study can be found through the American Medical Director Association’s website at


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