Timing of C-arm Drape Contamination

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Background: Surgical site infection remains a concern in orthopedic surgery, and contamination of C-arm covers is a potentially modifiable risk factor.

Methods: A single-cohort study was conducted using 30 consecutive patients undergoing operative fracture fixation. Cultures were obtained from the C-arm cover after initial draping and every 20 min thereafter. The total number of persons in the operating room (person-hours/h of study time) and the number of door openings were recorded. The C-arm position changes and the time to contamination were monitored.

Results: The median time from the start of the operation to contamination was 20 min. There was a 17% contamination rate on initial draping, 50% at 20 min, 57% at 40 min, and 80% by 80 min. The C-arms in five cases were not contaminated during the surgery. Time to contamination correlated significantly with lateral position changes (correlation [r]=0.64; p=0.003) but was not related to C-arm position changes (r=0.22; p=0.34), number of door openings (r=0.20; p=0.39), or person-hours/h (r=0.04; p=0.85).

Conclusions: Contamination of the C-arm drape occurs often and early during surgery for orthopedic fractures. We recommend minimal contact with the C-arm to avoid contamination of the surgical field.



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