UV technology eliminates 96% of pathogens in operating theatres

A new study suggests that UV technology could significantly improve the decontamination of operating theatres.

Ultraviolet (UV) technology has been found to eliminate more than 96% of pathogens in operating theatres and on medical equipment, compared to 38% using manual cleaning methods that rely on chemicals to disinfect surfaces, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC).

"The challenge from an infection control standpoint is that microbes and bacteria are invisible to the human eye, and there is potential for errors in the manual cleaning and disinfection process, whether it's attributable to inadequate staffing, poor training, lack of adherence to manufacturers' instructions or other human error," said Donna Armellino, RN, DNP, vice president of infection prevention at Northwell Health, who was the lead author on this study.

She commented that disinfectants may have the wrong dilution, be incompatible with the materials used to clean, may not be in contact with the equipment long enough, or the chemicals may be improperly stored, reducing their pathogen-destroying effectiveness.

To assess the current standard of cleaning and disinfection in operating theatres, Northwell clinicians teamed with PurpleSun, which developed a focused multivector, ultraviolet (FMUV) device that is used to supplement manual cleaning. FMUV takes 90 seconds to fully disinfect surfaces. They evaluated the current standard of cleaning in the operating theatre with and without the use of FMUV.

As part of the study, researchers assessed pathogen presence by performing tests on equipment that was reported out in colony-forming units (CFUs). CFUs represent pathogens that could potentially increase the risk of a hospital-acquired infection. The testing was done before manual cleaning, after manual-chemical cleaning and disinfection, and after the automated FMUV light technology using a five-point assessment technique. The aggregate CFUs following manual-chemical disinfection compared to pre-cleaning showed a 38% effectiveness at killing pathogens, whereas the process using FMUV was 96.5% effective at reducing the level of reported CFUs. 

"The study supports the fact that operating rooms are clean, but not as clean as we'd like following manual chemical cleaning and disinfection. FMUV has the potential for changing the cleanliness of operating rooms," said Dr. Armellino.

Her co-authors on the study were Kristine Goldstein, RN, and Linti Thomas, RN, of Northern Westchester Hospital; and Thomas J. Walsh, MD, and Vidmantas Petraitis, MD, both of Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University.