Healthcare News & Insights

Copper linens, surfaces help hospital reduce infection rates

Using copper fixtures in hospitals has been shown to cut down on the spread of infection. More proof of copper’s antimicrobial properties can be found in the results of a new clinical trial – the largest of its kind in a health system. 

According to an article in the Daily Press, a newspaper in Virginia, Norfolk’s Sentara Leigh Hospital participated in a clinical trial designed to see how well copper products would fare at fighting germs in a hospital setting.

This project was unique because the hospital used a relatively new product: hospital linens infused with copper oxide.

Germ-fighting sheets

Most studies suggest that hospital sheets and gowns are the most contaminated items in a patient’s room. So Sentara wanted to test out the use of copper linens to see if they’d make any difference with reducing the germs patients came in contact with during their hospital stays.

The copper-infused sheets were used in the inpatient departments of the hospital (not the emergency department). Instead of being rough and uncomfortable, the sheets had the benefit of being soft and a neutral taupe color. Many patients enjoyed them because they reminded them of home.

Along with the bed linens, Sentara also used bath sinks, patient trays and handrails made with copper. These products turned out to be effective with reducing germs in the hospital, and the results of the trial were published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Positive results

Since using the copper sheets and surfaces, the rates of hospital-acquired infections went down dramatically for Sentara.

According to a press release from Sentara Healthcare, the hospital saw an 83% decline in C. diff rates alone within 10 months. And rates for several multidrug-resistant infectious strains of bacteria, including MRSA and VRE, went down by 78%.

Because the results of the initial clinical trial were so positive, Sentara’s working on a second clinical trial where copper products will be used in more patient rooms. The results will be compared against two other Sentara hospitals in Virginia to see whether the reduced infection rates continue with a larger number of patients.

Eventually, if the second clinical trial proves effective, Sentara plans to install copper products in all of its hospitals and put copper-infused linens in every patient room.

Combined with a robust infection-prevention program, the use of copper surfaces to keep bacteria from harming patients has the potential to make a significant impact on the rates of hospital-acquired infections in patients.

That means it may be time for your facility to start looking into replacing its standard bed rails, bedside tables and other hospital fixtures with copper-infused products. The benefits of this approach could well outweigh the costs.

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