Q. My doctor always washes his hands before an exam, but he never seems to wipe down his stethoscope. This makes me nervous, but perhaps I am being silly. Should I ask about the stethoscope next time?
A. Stethoscopes can carry all sorts of nasty bacteria (Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, July, 2011). We have always wondered why doctors who are scrupulous about washing their hands seem less concerned about cleaning their stethoscopes. Since a stethoscope goes from patient to patient and may hang around the doctor’s or nurse’s neck, your concern seems reasonable.
We recently learned about a clever new device called CleanStethoscope (Cleanint.com) that could make this process safer. After every exam, the provider slides the bell of the stethoscope into a holder that attaches magnetically to the shirt or white coat. The sponge insert is moistened with a disinfectant to kill germs and is replaced daily.