Suction tip contamination is reportedly as high as 70% in human orthopedic surgical procedures. Changing the suction tip during total hip replacement has been shown to decrease contamination rates from 36% to 3.2%. Duration of surgery appeared to be a contributing factor. Veterinary surgical procedures have a documented suction tip contamination rate of 68% for clean, clean-contaminated, and contaminated surgical procedures. This study investigated contamination rates of suction tips in 50 clean orthopedic surgical procedures in dogs and cats, compared the contamination rates between intermittent and continuous suction, evaluated the effect of time on contamination rate, and reported the isolated bacterial species.

Results showed that contamination of suction tips during veterinary surgery was relatively common (44%). Coagulase-negative Staphylococcus spp were most frequently isolated. This rate was similar to that reported for human surgery but lower than that previously reported. High rates suggested that airborne contamination of a suction tip was highly likely during surgery, warranting attention to sterility. Limiting surgical time and changing suction tips every 60 minutes were advised.

Similar to human studies, these results suggested the importance of airborne and other environmental sources of bacteria in surgical site infections. Although the authors were unable to make any definitive conclusions, they did well in designing and conducting this study. Perhaps a similar study with a larger number of patients would add some statistical validity to the results presented here.—Arthur A. Fettig, DVM, DACVS

Intraoperative contamination of the suction tip in clean orthopedic surgeries in dogs and cats. Medl N, Guerrero TG, Hölzle L, et al. VET SURG 41:254-260, 2012.

This capsule is part of the One Health Initiative