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I was recently hospitalized. Before taking a blood specimen from me, a lab technician tore a piece of tape and stuck it to the bed rail. Then, she used this tape to apply a gauze pad at the venipuncture site. Did this raise my risk of infection?-K.J., IND.


Theoretically yes, says our consultant, an expert in I.V. therapy. But the risk is probably minimal in the circumstances you describe.


Evidence on this issue is scarce. One study published nearly 10 years ago found that 74% of tape specimens were contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.1 But our consultant knows of no research linking contaminated tape to local or systemic infections following a blood draw. She points out that unlike I.V. catheter placement, a blood draw doesn't involve prolonged insertion of a foreign object, which would provide a much more fertile conduit for pathogens.


To be practical, a lab technician needs to have tape ready to apply with one hand as she holds pressure on the puncture site with the other. If the patient is able, he could hold pressure on the site while she tears off a piece of tape. Otherwise, our consultant says that the bed rail, which is part of the patient's environment, is a better choice than the front of the technician's uniform, which has been all over the hospital.




1. Redelmeier DA, Livesley NJ. Adhesive tape and intravascular-catheter-associated infections. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 14(6):373-375, June 1999. [Context Link]