Bacterial contamination of re-usable laryngoscope blades during the course of daily anaesthetic practice

  • W Lowman
  • L Venter
  • J Scribante


Background and objectives. Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are largely preventable through risk analysis and modification of practice.
Anaesthetic practice plays a limited role in the prevention of HAIs, although laryngoscope use and decontamination is an area of concern.
We aimed to assess the level of microbial contamination of re-usable laryngoscope blades at a public hospital in South Africa.
Setting. The theatre complex of a secondary-level public hospital in Johannesburg.
Methods. Blades from two different theatres were sampled twice daily, using a standardised technique, over a 2-week period. Samples were
quantitatively assessed for microbial contamination, and stratified by area on blade, theatre and time using Fisher’s exact test.
Results. A contamination rate of 57.3% (63/110) was found, with high-level contamination accounting for 22.2% of these. Common
commensals were the most frequently isolated micro-organisms (79.1%), but important hospital pathogens such as Enterobacter species and Acinetobacter baumannii were isolated from blades with high-level contamination. No significant difference in the level of microbial contamination by area on blade, theatre or time was found (p<0.05).
Conclusions. A combination of sub-optimal decontamination and improper handling of laryngoscopes after decontamination results in significant microbial contamination of re-usable laryngoscope blades. There is an urgent need to review protocols and policies surrounding the use of these blades.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135