Using Sterile Ultrasound Gel Increases Patient Safety

Using Sterile Ultrasound Gel Increases Patient Safety

If you are an ultrasound user, you already know the importance of using a high-quality conductive gel to enhance your patient’s comfort and produce accurate images. But even though this medical practice is considered one of the safest, it still has its risks, especially during ultrasound-guided procedures, where gels can be carriers of bacteria and infections. However, this is something you can prevent by using sterile ultrasound gel that increases the patient's safety.

According to the World Health Organization, in high-income countries, it is estimated that healthcare-associated infections occur in 7 out of every 100 hospitalized patients. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States report that 1 in 25 hospitalized patients will develop an infection in a healthcare facility, and an estimated 75,000 patients will die each year due to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). In addition to the cost of human life, HAIs produce a financial burden on patients and providers that comes out to an annual cost of $6 billion.

With the current picture of HAI spread in mind, it's never been more critical for ultrasound users to take infection control seriously, especially during ultrasound-guided interventions. Doing so not only keeps ultrasound a safe modality, but it can also contribute to a lower overall rate of HAIs. In this article, we'll discuss the reasons behind the importance of sterile ultrasound gel use and how it leads to better patient outcomes.

As we mentioned before, ultrasound can be considered a relatively safe imaging modality when the appropriate infection prevention and control measures are followed. However, a survey conducted by the European Society of Radiology revealed that only 14% of the audited clinicians used sterile ultrasound gel for endocavity procedures, which represents a gap in the infection prevention and control practices that ultrasound users have.

According to the Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control in Sonography by the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, single-use sterile gel sachets are recommended for all critical procedures and are preferable for semi-critical procedures. However, non-sterile gel sachets can also be used for semi-critical and are preferred for non-critical procedures.

Ultrasound Gel Selection Based on the Spaulding Classification

Critical: single-use sterile gel only.

Semi-critical: single-use sterile gel or single-use non-sterile gel.

Non-critical: single-use non-sterile gel or multi-use non-sterile gel.

Risk of HAIs Via Contaminated Ultrasound Gel

In a study published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, it was found that some ultrasound gels classified as bacteriostatic because of components such as parabens or methyl benzoate, didn’t actually have antimicrobial properties and could even function as a vehicle for bacteria growth, leading to significant outbreaks of infection among patients. However, once the use of single- use sterile gel packets was implemented, the outbreaks ended.

Another study by the Journal of Urology showed an Achromobacter xylosoxidans outbreak after executing transrectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsy at a urology unit at a tertiary care center. Days after the procedure, four patients were hospitalized with fever. Environmental cultures were taken from the equipment and materials used for the procedure and the results found that the ultrasound gel used was contaminated with xylosoxidans.

The ultrasound gel the facility was using was a non-sterile version, even though it was for interventional procedures, and it was held in a plastic container that was repeatedly refilled from a larger bag. After this outbreak, they switched this practice to individual sterile gel sachets for each patient, and just like in the first study we mentioned, no further cases occurred.

Therefore, the adequate use of appropriate ultrasound supplies like sterile probe covers and sterile ultrasound gel, particularly in environments where a sterile field must be preserved, is key to guaranteeing patient safety.

The use of sterile gel can be a crucial factor in decreasing the risk of cross-contamination during ultrasound-guided procedures. For these types of interventions, it is highly recommended to use single-use sachets that safeguard the sterile environment in a much easier and safer manner.

Krystal Sterile Ultrasound Gel: An Ally for Patient Safety

In the last few years, the healthcare sector has faced new challenges that have changed the priorities and concerns of healthcare practitioners, and medical imaging professionals are not exempt from that. The pandemic affected global industry and now many providers are experiencing supply chain issues, high costs, delayed shipping, and even price changes due to inflation and other factors.

In response to that problem, we decided to offer a solution that covered the main challenges imaging facilities needed to overcome, while still providing them a Krystal clear experience.

For more than 70 years, ultrasound imaging has been considered one of the safest imaging modalities since it does not expose patients or practitioners to radiation. Its use keeps growing and now it's available in different clinical areas such as emergency medicine, sports medicine, and urology. Its expanded use has been fueled by the growth of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) and its benefits, namely its ease of use and mobility.

Thinking of all the professionals that use ultrasound guidance in those areas every day, we developed our Krystal Sterile Ultrasound Gel as an effective solution that helps them enhance their exams and interventions without compromising the safety of their patients.

Krystal sterile ultrasound gel is the safest to use because it suits environments where interventional procedures are going to be performed and sterile conditions are mandatory for infection control purposes. Formulated with 99% natural and safe ingredients, this gel provides your patients with a hypoallergenic experience, and measures to prevent infection and cross-contamination.

Also available in a non-sterile version, Krystal ultrasound gels are the ultimate option in terms of cost-efficiency because they have a market-leading price that provides savings of up to 40% when compared to other brands.

Appropriate Practices to Make Sterile Gel an Ally for Patient Safety

Practitioners should keep in mind the appropriate use of sterile supplies when the procedure to execute is classified as critical or semi-critical.

In cases where a sterile gel should be used, clinicians should avoid using multiuse gels and adhere to the official recommendations for the use of ultrasound gels such as:

  • Practitioners must not assume that ultrasound gel is free of pathogens unless it is clearly labelled as “sterile”.
  • Sterile gel should be used for all endocavity ultrasound procedures and all interventions.
  • During endocavity procedures, the use of sterile gel is recommended outside and inside transducer covers due to high reported transducer cover perforation rates and porosity. A new sachet must be opened for every patient, but the same sachet can be used for gel inside and outside the probe cover.
  • Single-use bottles or sachets are recommended rather than bottles that are refilled from larger containers because the latter has a higher risk of contamination.
  • Practitioners can use non-sterile bottles if the transducer will be in contact only with intact skin and when they can assure there are no infections or other skin pathologies.
  • Upon opening, ultrasound gel bottles should be used within a short period of time and ideally discarded at the end of the working day.
  • When dispensing gel, the imaging professional should avoid contact between the tip of the bottle and the patient or other sources of contamination.
  • Gels should be stored at room temperature, but if gel warmers are used for patient comfort, only the bottles for immediate use should be warmed. Otherwise, bottles warmed for long periods can lead to multiplication of microbes. Gel warmers should be regularly cleaned and disinfected as well.

Patient safety is one of the most important considerations in the healthcare sector, and Krystal ultrasound gels were formulated to protect your patients, and give you, as an imaging professional, a complete optimal experience.

Besides enhancing the performance of your device and providing you with artifact-free and clear images, one of the key benefits of choosing Krystal includes a financial structure that resists the fluctuations in the economy and takes care of your budget.

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