In the healthcare arena, sometimes things change very fast.  Practical anesthetics have been around for quite some time, but it has only been within the last decade or so that we have come to understand the transmission of hospital acquired infections (HAI).  More importantly, it’s been in the very recent past  and present day, that effective methodologies for combatting these HAIs have become available.

For a long time it was widely believed that HAIs were transmitted form patient to patient via caregiver hands or sequentially used equipment.  No thought was given to other sources such as hard or soft surfaces in a patient’s room.  Things like doorknobs and bedrails, over-bed tables and telephones.  However, in the past ten years a growing body of evidence indicates that routine cleaning of these surfaces can significantly reduce such infections, and has led to standard guidelines incorporating the disinfecting the so called “high touch” areas as part of a terminal cleaning program. 

Monitoring the effectiveness of these procedures has taken a number of forms including direct observation, swab cultures, Agar cultures, fluorescent markers and adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence.  While some of these may sound highly scientific and suggest high levels of efficacy, the truth is that all of thee methods have certain weaknesses.  But what has been found is that with a standard terminal cleaning, quality checked in any of these methods, the best of the high touch surface cleaning success was no higher than 82%! 

Enter rapid paced new developments.  Because of the speed of development, it’s not enough to look at a product or method once and make a final decision.  We should update ourselves on these, and even newer, technologies on a regular basis.  New technologies and methodologies can be found in disinfection and cleaning tools, soft surface disinfection, hard surface disinfection and whole room disinfection.  Each of these categories has a wide variety of new options. 

Of significance is that in the areas of hard surface and whole room disinfection, titanium dioxide products are at the head of the pack.  Very simply put, when titanium dioxide is exposed to ultraviolet light, it produces antimicrobial hydroxyl radicals and superoxide ions.  These settle on hard surfaces and form a bond with the surface, creating an antimicrobial environment that can last for years!  These products can also be used on soft surfaces and brushed into fabrics.  By adding zinc to the mix, the products become active whenever any indoor lighting is on. 

Turn on the lights, kill the germs.  How cool is that?  Of course these products should be used in conjunction with best practices daily cleaning, but what a difference these titanium dioxide products can make in reducing and eliminating HAIs. 

This information was derived from an article titled Revisiting Environmental Hygiene and Hospital Acquired Infections in the October 2013 issue of Anesthesiology News.