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Ask the Experts Q & A

Q: Our office leaves the ultrasound probe in an open gallon container of glutaraldehyde as they use the probe throughout the day. Are there other options for decontamination of the probe? Can we just wipe it down with alcohol? Any suggestions?

A: Using glutaraldehyde for this purpose is overkill (literally) and unnecessarily exposes workers to toxic fumes. Of the three levels of cleaning--sterilization (autoclaving), high-level disinfection and low-level disinfection--an ultrasound probe requires the lowest level. Since it doesn't enter a patient's sterile body cavity (if it did, you would autoclave) or touch a patient's mucous membranes (then you would have to sterilize or high-level disinfect using glutaraldehyde), you can clean it just like any other item that touches patient skin and is used from patient to patient (blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, etc.). A low-level disinfectant such as 70% to 90% ethanol or isopropanol, iodine and iodophors, phenols and phenolics, or 1:100 dilution of bleach (1 teaspoon in 2 cups water) will do the trick in your case. Check the manufacturer's instructions to be sure whichever disinfectant you select doesn't ruin the probe and void your warranty.

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