Quantifying bacterial transfer from patients to staff during burns dressing and bed changes: implications for infection control

Sarah Elaine Bache, Michelle MacLean, George Gettinby, John Anderson, Scott MacGregor, Ian Taggart

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Routine nursing activities such as dressing/bed changes increase bacterial dispersal from burns patients, potentially contaminating healthcare workers (HCW) carrying out these tasks. HCW thus become vectors for transmission of nosocomial infection between patients. The suspected relationship between %total body surface area (%TBSA) of burn and levels of bacterial release has never been fully established. Bacterial contamination of HCW was assessed by contact plate samples (n = 20) from initially sterile gowns worn by the HCW during burns patient dressing/bed changes. Analysis of 24 gowns was undertaken and examined for relationships between %TBSA, time taken for activity, and contamination received by the HCW. Relationships between size of burn and levels of HCW contamination, and time taken for the dressing/bed change and levels of HCW contamination were best described by exponential models. Burn size correlated more strongly (R2 = 0.82, p < 0.001) than time taken (R2 = 0.52, p < 0.001), with levels of contamination received by the HCW. Contamination doubled with every 6–9% TBSA increase in burn size. Burn size was used to create a model to predict bacterial contamination received by a HCW carrying out bed/dressing changes. This may help with the creation of burn-specific guidelines on protective clothing worn by HCW caring for burns patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220–228
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • infection control
  • nosocomial infection
  • healthcare workers
  • contamination
  • dressing change
  • bed change
  • bacterial transfer
  • burns dressing

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