Are therapeutic ultrasounds a potential vector for nosocomial infections?

Schabrun, Siobhan, Chipchase, Lucy and Rickard, Heather (2006) Are therapeutic ultrasounds a potential vector for nosocomial infections?. Physiotherapy Research International, 11 2: 61-71. doi:10.1002/pri.329

Author Schabrun, Siobhan
Chipchase, Lucy
Rickard, Heather
Title Are therapeutic ultrasounds a potential vector for nosocomial infections?
Journal name Physiotherapy Research International   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1358-2267
Publication date 2006-06
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1002/pri.329
Volume 11
Issue 2
Start page 61
End page 71
Total pages 11
Place of publication London , U.K.
Publisher Wiley
Language eng
Subject 11 Medical and Health Sciences
Formatted abstract
Background and Purpose.
Nosocomial infections present a widespread problem in today's healthcare environment, with a significant number of patients acquiring an infection annually. With the contemporary transition of immunocompromised and high-risk patients to community-based care, therapeutic ultrasound has the potential to be a vector of infection in the physiotherapy setting. The purpose of the present study was to determine the degree of contamination on therapeutic ultrasound transducer heads and ultrasound gel after routine clinical use, and to evaluate the efficacy of recommended infection control procedures.

The study consisted of two phases. Using a prospective cross-sectional design, microbiological cultures were obtained from 44 transducer heads and 43 gels. Subjects were drawn from a variety of physiotherapy practice settings. All samples containing more than five colony forming units per cm2 were considered contaminated. Following these measurements, a repeated-measures design was used to re-evaluate the 44 transducer heads for the amount and type of bacteria present after cleaning with a 70% alcohol wipe.

Twenty-seven per cent of transducer heads and 28% of gels were contaminated. Transducer heads showed fairly low levels of contamination across the sample, with the majority of organisms isolated found in normal skin and environmental flora. Gels were heavily contaminated with opportunistic and potentially pathogenic organisms, including Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter baumannii and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa. No multi-resistant organisms were identified. Cleaning with 70% alcohol significantly reduced the level of contamination on transducer heads (p < 0.01).


Therapeutic ultrasound equipment is a potential vector for nosocomial infection in physiotherapy patients. The risk of infection from transducer heads can be effectively removed by cleaning with 70% alcohol between patients. Further research into possible strategies to reduce the risk of infection from ultrasound gels is needed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Keyword bacterial contamination
physiotherapy equipment
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Scopus Citation Count Cited 23 times in Scopus Article | Citations
Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Fri, 13 Nov 2009, 13:19:12 EST by Ms Lynette Adams on behalf of Library Corporate Services