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Archive August 2018 XIX, No. 8

Thinking of Buying... Whole-Room Disinfection Systems

Your options for attacking bacteria that survive manual cleaning.

Mike Morsch

Mike Morsch, Associate Editor


GOT YOU COVERED High-tech disinfecting devices treat high-touch areas where staff members might miss during manual cleaning.

Whole-room disinfection systems don’t replace the need to carefully wipe down high-touch areas or mop OR floors, but they do attack bacteria on surfaces that even the most diligent member of your turnover team might have missed.

“It’s not a magic bullet,” says Jim Davis, MSN, CIC, a senior infection specialist at ECRI Institute, a healthcare research organization in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. “It’s an environmental control that should augment good manual cleaning and disinfection.”

Your options in whole-room disinfection include:

  • Ultraviolet light breaches the cell walls of viruses, bacteria and spores to deactivate their DNA and kill them in the air and on surfaces. Two types of devices use UV-C for germicidal irradiation: continuous light systems with 1- to 2-hour cycles and xenon-based pulsed light systems with 5- to 10-minute cycles. Both require direct illumination to treat targeted surfaces.
  • Hydrogen peroxide vapor systems deliver a heat-generated odorless vapor, which uses oxidative processes to kill microorganisms. When the systems are in use, a room’s doors, ducts and ventilation ports must be sealed.
  • Aerosolized hydrogen peroxide is uniformly sprayed with a pressure-generated aerosol, which delivers a residue-free mist that is typically made up of 5% to 6% hydrogen peroxide and a very small percentage of silver.
  • Ozone gas has been used in conjunction with high-powered air filtration and UV light to rid surfaces and air of microbe colonization.
  • Cluster ion air purifiers actively seek out pathogens via electromagnetic charge. On contact, their stored energy is unleashed through the pores of cell walls, destroying bacteria from the inside out.
  • Mercury UV-C light devices use low-pressure mercury gas bulbs that primarily emit a strong, narrow band of the UV-C spectrum. These devices use a dose targeted for specific types of bacteria on surfaces.

Right method for you?

Base your whole-room disinfection choice on how a system works in practice and the value you place on reducing the risk of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs). Each system’s disinfection agent and its mechanism of action require specific preparations to achieve optimal results. A room’s size and shape, the layout of its equipment and fixtures, and the reflectivity of its surfaces can all impact effectiveness.

UVC light systems need clear lines of sight to treat surfaces; if the light doesn’t hit a particular spot, it doesn’t disinfect it. That means you might have to reposition the unit between multiple cycles and move equipment around the room to ensure all surfaces are treated.

Systems that use hydrogen peroxide and other combinations of mists and vapors are less dependent on line of sight. They are, however, potentially more labor intensive because you have to cover air vents and seal OR doors before activating the devices. Time also is needed for chemicals to sufficiently dissipate before you can re-enter a disinfected room.

You ultimately have to decide what type of disinfection device is worth the investment. Compare the initial capital investment, per-use disposables and the associated labor costs with the hundreds of thousands of dollars a healthcare-acquired infection can cost your facility to treat. OSM

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