March 5, 2009 – The Joint Commission is alerting hospitals is alerting hospitals and imaging centers the importance of infection control in MRI facilities, stemming from an article by Peter Rothschild, M.D., author of "Preventing Infections in MRI: Best Practices" and founder of Patient Comfort Systems.

Dr. Rothschild explains, "The Joint Commission is clearly concerned over the lack of infection control in the MRI suite. They will, in the future, closely examine this area, and properly train their inspectors to physically enter MRI rooms for a more definitive inspections. The areas under greatest scrutiny will be: 1) existence of an infection control policy; 2) how and when the MRI was cleaned; 3) who are the individuals performing this cleaning and what is their safety training; 4) examining all the table pads and positioners to see if they are torn or frayed. Inspection may even include a black light to reveal biological material embedded in the pads, on the table or within the MRI bore itself.

"The Joint Commission clearly cannot assure the public that an accredited hospital is safe without thoroughly evaluating the MRI suite. The lack of even basic infection control, such as hand washing or cleaning between patients, is well known by technologists operating the MRI and radiologists reading the MRIs.”

Dr. Rothschild has also published an 11-step infection control policy designed for the MRI center.

"An MRI is a very complex and dangerous area to clean,” he said. “It is unreasonable to think it can be cleaned safely and effectively by untrained personnel."

The Joint Commission has made it clear that they are following the CDC guidelines on infection control. These guidelines specifically state that a clean sheet is not a barrier to infectious agents. However, this is usually the only thing used by imaging centers to protect their patients. The CDC guidelines also make clear that the pads on the table as well as the coils must be cleaned between patients, not merely covered with a sheet. Most importantly, the CDC states that if table positioners or pads are torn or frayed they must be replaced. Therefore, the common practice of simply placing a clean sheet over torn, contaminated pads and covering up the smell with air freshener is a clear breach of basic infection control. Another common violation of CDC standards at outpatient MRI centers is the incredibly dangerous practice of having employees take contaminated laundry home to wash in their own household washing machines in order to save money. Not only can this further the spread of infectious agents throughout the community, but since their washing machines often lack any special sanitizing capabilities, these employees risk contaminating their own family's clothing and thus even further spreading diseases.

To request a copy of Dr. Rothschild's white paper, entitled "Preventing Infections in MRI: Best Practices for Infection Control in and around MRI Suites," and the "11 Steps for Preventing Infection in MRI" checklist, contact Doug Kohl, Sierra Communications, (209) 586-5887, or [email protected].

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