Sterility of C-arm fluoroscopy during spinal surgery

Debdut Biswas, Jesse E. Bible, Peter G. Whang, Andrew K. Simpson, Jonathan N. Grauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Study Design. Prospective study evaluating the sterility of 25 C-arm drapes after their use during spine surgery. Objective. To use swab samples to evaluate the sterility of draped C-arms at the end of spine surgical cases and assess the integrity of the sterile technique. Summary of Background Data. Intraoperative fluoroscopy is used routinely in the operating room for a variety of spinal applications. Although the C-arm may help the surgeon assess spinal alignment and facilitate the placement of instrumentation, there are concerns that the C-arm may represent a potential source of contamination and increase the risk of developing a postoperative infection. Methods. This study included 25 surgical cases requiring a standard fluoroscopic C-arm that were performed by 2 spine surgeons. Sterile culture swabs were used to obtain samples from 5 defined locations on the C-arm drape after its use during the operation. The undraped technician's console was sampled in each case as a positive control and an additional 25 C-arm drapes were swabbed immediately after they were applied to the C-arm unit in order to obtain negative controls. Swab samples were assessed for bacterial growth on 5% sheep blood Columbia agar plates using a semiquantitative technique. Results. Contamination was noted on only 1 of 25 negative control drapes at a single location (4%). One hundred percent and 96% of the positive control swabs that were obtained from the negative controls and postoperative drapes exhibited growth, respectively. Although at least some degree of contamination was observed at all locations of the C-arm drape after surgery, the upper 2 sample sites demonstrated the greatest degree of contamination; the incidences of postoperative contamination were significantly greater for the top (56%, P < 0.000001) and upper front of the receiver (28%, P = 0.010) compared to the negative controls. In contrast, the lower front, receiver plate, and midportion of the C-arm were associated with lower rates of contamination (12%-20%). Conclusion. The upper portions of the C-arm clearly exhibited the greatest rates of contamination during spinal operations. This contamination most likely occurs when the undraped portions of the C-arm are rotated to acquire lateral images. As a result, we no longer consider the top portion of the C-arm drape to be sterile in these situations and we believe that avoiding contact with these areas may decrease the risks of intraoperative contamination and possibly postoperative infection as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1917
Number of pages5
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sterility of C-arm fluoroscopy during spinal surgery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this