Infectious diseases and the anaesthetist
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The methods of dealing with various items of anaesthetic equipment in order to assure a fresh supply for each patient have been discussed. These consist of using disposable items, steam sterilization, disinfection by both chemical methods and pasteurization and the use of ethylene oxide sterilization. The use of disposable bacterial and viral filtres to protect ventilators and soda lime cannisters is discussed. These can then be sterilized by ethylene oxide at less frequent intervals, i.e., weekly. Protection of the anaesthetists' skin from contact with body fluids by the use of barrier methods are stressed. Methods to avoid penetration of the skin by needlestick and sharp objects are discussed. The increasing number of persons being treated for opportunistic infections makes it likely that anaesthetists will encounter increasing numbers of patients infected with HIV. The more common infections encountered in the operating room in North America have been included, with methods of avoiding possible infection from them. Constant vigilance and the use of universal precautions when caring for all patients is therefore required by the anaesthetist in the operating room in order to avoid contacting infection from patients.
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