Can Particulate Air Sampling Predict Microbial Load in Operating Theatres for Arthroplasty?

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Several studies have proposed that the microbiological quality of the air in operating theatres be indirectly evaluated by means of particle counting, a technique derived from industrial clean-room technology standards, using airborne particle concentration as an index of microbial contamination. However, the relationship between particle counting and microbiological sampling has rarely been evaluated and demonstrated in operating theatres. The aim of the present study was to determine whether particle counting could predict microbiological contamination of the air in an operating theatre during 95 surgical arthroplasty procedures. This investigation was carried out over a period of three months in 2010 in an orthopedic operating theatre devoted exclusively to prosthetic surgery. During each procedure, the bacterial contamination of the air was determined by means of active sampling; at the same time, airborne particulate contamination was assessed throughout the entire procedure. On considering the total number of surgical operations, the mean value of the total bacterial load in the center of the operating theatre proved to be 35 CFU/m3; the mean particle count was 4,194,569 no./m3 for particles of diameter ≥0.5 μm and 13,519 no./m3 for particles of diameter ≥5 μm. No significant differences emerged between the median values of the airborne microbial load recorded during the two types of procedure monitored. Particulates with a diameter of ≥0.5 μm were detected in statistically higher concentrations (p<0.001) during knee-replacement procedures. By contrast, particulates with a diameter of ≥5 μm displayed a statistically higher concentration during hip-replacement procedures (p<0.05). The results did not reveal any statistically significant correlation between microbial loads and particle counts for either of the particle diameters considered (≥0.5 μm and ≥5 μm). Consequently, microbiological monitoring remains the most suitable method of evaluating the quality of air in operating theatres. © 2012 Cristina et al.




Cristina, M. L., Spagnolo, A. M., Sartini, M., Panatto, D., Gasparini, R., Orlando, P., … Perdelli, F. (2012). Can Particulate Air Sampling Predict Microbial Load in Operating Theatres for Arthroplasty? PLoS ONE, 7(12).

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