Contamination of Medical Charts: An Important Source of Potential Infection in HospitalsReport as inadecuate

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This prospective study aims to identify and compare the incidence of bacterial contamination of hospital charts and the distribution of species responsible for chart contamination in different units of a tertiary hospital.


All beds in medical, surgical, pediatric, and obstetric-gynecologic general wards 556 and those in corresponding special units 125 including medical, surgical, pediatric intensive care units ICUs, the obstetric tocolytic unit and delivery room were surveyed for possible chart contamination. The outer surfaces of included charts were sampled by one experienced investigator with sterile cotton swabs rinsed with normal saline.


For general wards and special units, the overall sampling rates were 81.8% 455-556 and 85.6% 107-125 p = 0.316; the incidence of chart contamination was 63.5% and 83.2%, respectively p<0.001. Except for obstetric-gynecologic charts, the incidence was significantly higher in each and in all ICUs than in corresponding wards. Coagulase-negative staphylococci was the most common contaminant in general wards 40.0% and special units 34.6% p>0.05. Special units had a significantly higher incidence of bacterial contamination due to Staphylococcus aureus 17.8%, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus 9.3%, Streptococcus viridans 9.4%, Escherichia coli 11.2%, Klebsiella pneumoniae 7.5%, and Acinetobacter baumannii 7.5%. Logistic regression analysis revealed the incidence of chart contamination was 2- to 4-fold higher in special units than in general wards odds ratios: 1.97–4.00.


Noting that most hospital charts are contaminated, our study confirms that a hospital chart is not only a medical record but also an important source of potential infection. The plastic cover of the medical chart can harbor potential pathogens, thus acting as a vector of bacteria. Additionally, chart contamination is more common in ICUs. These findings highlight the importance of effective hand-washing before and after handling medical charts. However, managers and clinical staff should pay more attention to the issue and may consider some interventions.

Author: Kuo-Hu Chen , Li-Ru Chen, Ying-Kuan Wang



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