Nosocomial infections caused by multidrug-resistant organisms are commonly associated with longer hospital stays up to 12 to 18 days and annual estimated costs of $5.7 billion to $6.8 billion. One common mode of transmission is cross-contamination between patients and providers via surface contaminants on devices such as telemetry systems.


To determine the effect of a cleaning protocol on colonization of surface contaminants on electrocardiographic telemetry systems in 4 cardiovascular step-down units and to compare colonization in medical vs surgical units.


A prospective, randomized, case-controlled study (the Descriptive Evaluation of Electrocardiographic Telemetry Pathogens [DEET] study) was designed to evaluate microbial colonization on telemetry systems before and after cleaning with sodium hypochlorite wipes. Each randomly selected telemetry system served as its own control. Nurses used a standardized culture technique recommended by personnel in infection control. Colonization before and after cleaning was analyzed by using the McNemar test and frequency tables. A standard cost-comparison analysis was conducted.


A total of 30 telemetry systems in medical units and 29 in surgical units were evaluated; 41 telemetry systems (69%) were colonized before the intervention, and 14 (24%) were colonized after it (P < .001). Before cleaning, surface organisms were present in 14 instances (35%) in surgical units and in 27 instances (66%) in medical units (P < .001). The cleaning strategy was cost-effective.


The cleaning intervention was effective, and cost-comparison analysis supported implementing a cleaning strategy for reusable leads rather than investing in disposable leads.

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