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Ultraviolet-C Light in the Veterinary Operating Theater

Jacob Rubin, DVM, DACVS-SA, Maine Veterinary Medical Center, Scarborough, Maine

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In the literature

Browne KL, Crowley JD, Tan CJ, O’Sullivan CB, Walsh WR. Effect of ultraviolet-C light on the environmental bacterial bioburden in various veterinary facilities. Am J Vet Res. 2021;82(7):582-588.


Preventing hospital-acquired infection is important for reducing morbidity in veterinary patients. Multimodal disinfection with chemical detergents is often used to clean gross material. Chemical disinfection can also reduce microbial counts; however, some microbes persist, and novel disinfection strategies may be beneficial.

This study evaluated use of a novel ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light in the operating room to reduce bacterial burden. Four surgical environments (ie, equine referral hospital, small animal referral hospital, academic research hospital, necropsy suite) were included. Microbial counts were evaluated before and after use of the UV-C light; overall mean microbial count was reduced by 94% after a single 45-minute treatment and 99% after a second treatment.

The authors concluded that reducing the environmental bacterial bioburden may decrease the number of surgical site infections.

UV-C light source is an expensive robot designed for human medicine. Other technologies, however, are under development and may help reduce the cost, making this treatment more feasible for smaller practices.


Key pearls to put into practice:


Detergents and chemical disinfecting agents cannot ensure a sterile environment. Routine microbial testing of common contact surfaces can help monitor for possible persistent environmental contamination.


A UV-C light may mitigate the environmental bacterial bioburden without contributing to antimicrobial resistance.



UV-C light systems can be cost prohibitive, but technology innovations may reduce the expense of these systems. The cost:benefit ratio of reducing surgical site infections and investing in such equipment should be evaluated.

Suggested Reading & Author Information

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