Another unexpected source of bacterial contamination appears to be the plastic backboards that emergency medical technicians use to transfer patients to a gurney. Such plastic boards help stabilize the patient for transfer to an ambulance. Once the patient has been transferred to a hospital emergency department the paramedics clean all their equipment including the plastic backboard they used for transport. Sadly, though, the cleaning process leaves a lot to be desired. A study of over 50 cleaned backboards revealed that each one was contaminated with a minimum of 11 different kinds of germs. One solution to the problem developed in part by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate is a new synthetic material called Board Armor. It prevents fluids from reaching the plastic backboard. This clean surface is changed after each patient to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

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  1. SN

    Most surfaces can be swabbed and various contaminants can be found such as handrails in hospitals. The difference here is that there are serious known contaminants on these backboards and patients with open wounds are being placed on this piece of equipment for sometimes long periods of time.
    Even the best cleaned backboards are still contaminated due to the fact of where they’re placed on the units. If you pull a backboard off of a fire engine, the backboard was probably stored in open compartment in the rear of the truck, right next to the fire hose and can usually be found with road grime caked all over it. The EMS industry always covers their stretcher mattresses, so why do they not cover a backboard where patients with open wounds are placed?
    It is only a matter of time before the level of pre-hospital care is questioned due to the vast amount of secondary infections being incurred.

  2. DWD

    Since UV light kills germs, I wonder what a few minutes in a tanning booth would do to the germs. Kind of like a burger. X minutes on each side. Not sure how a booth would cost compare to the covers. The breakeven time may favor the covers.

  3. crm

    I recently had hand surgery and had to strip and put on paper shorts and a gown. Before the surgery I was put in a room to be prepped for surgery. I had to sit in a plastic-like covered chair that had a sticky grime on it. I’m sure it’s never been cleaned and germs are transferred
    from patient to patient. In the future I will refuse to sit without a clean towel or paper barrier.

  4. TMG

    Good marketing scheme for the “Board Armor” people. However, the existence of germs on the boards means nothing unless it is shown to cause an actual problem. If almost any surface is cultured, multiple types of bacteria will be found. We must limit disposable covers to those that make a difference in outcome. In the meantime, clean up those boards as well as you can.

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