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The Risks of Multi-Use Electrodes


It would be easy to assume that the electrical current is the most dangerous aspect of using an electrode

However, in the environments where patients are cared for, healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are actually the greater danger. According to one study, it’s estimated that 90,000 patients die annually due to HAIs. 

One overlooked source of these HAIs is the reuse of standard, self-adhesive electrodes. Let’s explore the risks of multi-use electrodes:

The Issue with Multi-Use Electrode Usage

Since the advent of self-adhesive electrodes, many healthcare practitioners have used the same electrodes on multiple patients, despite them being designed for single-patient use. Unfortunately, even with today’s education on the risks of healthcare-associated infections, some healthcare professionals still follow this practice. But why? 

Many professionals working with electrodes simply don’t see sharing electrodes as a risk factor. 

There are still infection risks when they’re used as a single-patient item, too. Every time an electrode is peeled off of the patient, it collects dead skin, residual debris, and contaminants. Then it’s sealed in package for reuse, allowing bacteria to propagate until it is reintroduced to the patient at a later date.

There are also issues with standard cleansing procedures. 

Responding to a report about bacteria and electrodes in the American Journal of Infection Control, Mary Ellen Wells, PhD, RPSGT, R. EEG T., R. NCS T., director and associate professor, Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told Sleep Review

“Every hospital and clinic is unique, with individual needs and clinical situations…There is no standard method for cleaning reusable EEG electrodes. Manufacturers may or may not give recommendations, but hospital/clinic EEG labs will likely have their own protocol for cleaning to be used in conjunction with other guidelines (OSHA, CDC, FDA, and EPA),” she said. 

The same is true for estim electrodes, without standard procedures, adherence suffers, leading to health risks for patients. 

Risks of Infection

According to research from the American Journal of Infection Control, 25 percent of cleaned reusable electrodes still had bacteria present. Eight types of bacteria were identified; of those, seven were identified as infection risks.

The study also found human cells on 60.5 percent of used electrodes. Other research found 51.4 percent of manually cleaned electrode lead wires were contaminated with bacteria or risk pathogens. 

Certain environments make it even more difficult to stop the spread of infection. S. Aureus (MRSA) is a prevalent issue in athletic training rooms. According to the Journal of Athletic Training, 92 percent of athletic trainers believe MRSA is a national problem. The circumstances of competitive athletics make it challenging to address. 

Joe Gallo, professor of athletic training and program director at Salem State University, points to the fact that athletic training rooms and locker rooms are moist, hot environments conducive to the growth of bacteria. Additionally, because of the nature of competition and collision sports, athletes’ skin is frequently broken—creating a point of exposure. 

Not to mention equipment and uniforms saturated with sweat left to sit in bags and lockers. These factors make a multi-use electrode the perfect vehicle for spreading MRSA, which is no small matter. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows there were more than 80,000 invasive MRSA infections in one year alone. 

Dealing with harmful bacteria, such as MRSA, is not only a challenge for athletic trainers. Physical therapists also work in environments that are conducive to the growth of bacteria. A study conducted on physical therapy classrooms found bacteria growth in 53 percent of environmental samples from various surfaces in the classrooms. Bacteria present included MRSA, S. hominis, S. epidermidis, Micrococcus luteus, Kocuria kristinae, and various gram positive bacilli.

The authors of the study found that the areas in which physical therapy students practice present opportunities for harmful bacteria to grow and spread. This is attributed to the necessary skin-to-skin contact between people and equipment in physical therapy treatment rooms. 

There is one simple solution to preventing these infections, though—an antimicrobial electrode.

Infection Prevention with MicroBlock

Richmar’s MicroBlock antimicrobial electrodes were developed to aid infection prevention, one of the biggest topics in healthcare today. MicroBlock is the first and only electrode on the market that kills and inhibits the growth of bacteria on and even around the electrode, in the area known as the zone of inhibition.

Independent research has shown that the MicroBlock is more than 99 percent effective in reducing several forms of harmful bacteria:

  •  E. Cloacae (CRE)

  •  S. Aureus (MRSA)

  •  E. Coli (ESBL)

  •  E. Faecalis (VRE)

  •  P. Aeruginosa and A. Baumannii (Multidrug Resistant)

MicroBlock’s antimicrobial gel demonstrated a more than 4 log10 reduction against each of these microorganisms, which is the standard measure for effective antimicrobial products. To put it in perspective, a 4 log10 reduction kills 100 times more pathogens than a 2 log10 reduction.

MicroBlock antimicrobial electrodes are essential tools not only for pain management, but also in the fight to prevent infection.

If you would like to know more about the MicroBlock or would like a free sample of this innovative product, please contact us on our website