Cherwell develops new product to improve air quality

National study requires new peel apart packs to assess relationship between microbiological quality of operating theatre air and infection rate

22 May 2024
Will Thompson
Editorial Assistant


Cherwell, cleanroom microbiology solutions expert, has developed a new peel apart pack settle plate product to support a UK national study investigating the relationship between microbiological quality of operating theatre air and infection rate. Supported by NHS England, the UK Health Security Agency and British Orthopaedic Association, the JOINTCASE audit aims to check the air quality of ultra clean air (UCA) operating theatres while actually in use for surgery.

Despite the well-documented relationship between microbiological air quality and deep infection rates, it is not routine to monitor operating theatres when in use. This is because slit samplers are traditionally used to test air quality by volumetric counting, but these are labour-intensive, requiring trained individuals and not practical for routine audits. The study management group noted settle plate counting to be a simpler methodology and its relationship with volumetric counting well established.

Conducted jointly by local orthopaedic and microbiology/infectious disease departments in elective orthopaedic units nationwide, the audit now uses a settle plate based technique. For this, packs of 10 microbiology plates, which can be simply peeled apart aseptically for easy sterile dispensing onto surgical instrument trolleys and next to the wound, were specially developed by Cherwell. To further minimise contamination risk, during transfer for incubation after exposure, the plates can be secured with sterile elastic bands which are also supplied within the packs.

The new peel apart packs were required as settle plates are generally packed double or triple wrapped and sterilised for laboratory or cleanroom use, which is not sufficient during surgery in an operating theatre.

The Joint Orthopaedics and Infectious diseases National Theatre Clean Air Services Evaluation (JOINTCASE) is an ongoing national, multicentre, prospective audit. All elective orthopaedic units in the UK are encouraged to participate in this study. This includes major elective centres, tertiary units, and district general hospitals. Initially, the audit will focus on UCA theatres used for joint replacement surgery in the UK.

Want the latest science news straight to your inbox? Become a SelectScience member for free today>>