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Tourniquets and exsanguinators: a potential source of infection in the orthopedic operating theater?BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Fomites are increasingly being recognised as a source of hospital-acquired infection. We have therefore assessed tourniquets and exsanguinators for the presence of bacterial pathogens in 1 elective and 2 trauma orthopedic hospitals. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Swabs were taken prior to and after decontaminating these devices with 1 of 3 different cleaning modalities. These were then assessed for colony counts and organisms identified. RESULTS: Bacteria commonly implicated in surgical site infections such as coagulase-negative staphylococci, Staphylococcus aureus and Proteus spp. were prevalent. We also found a resistant strain of Acinetobacter and Candida. Exsanguinators were the most heavily contaminated devices, and colony counts in the trauma hospitals were up to 400% higher than in the elective hospital. Alcohol- and non-alcohol-based sterile wipes were both highly effective in decontaminating the devices. INTERPRETATION: Infectious organisms reside on the tourniquets and exsanguinators presently used in the orthopedic theater. These fomites may possibly be a source of surgical site infection. We have demonstrated a simple and effective means of decontaminating these devices between cases.