I just spotted this story over at physorg.org which describes an interesting study. These days it’s standard surgical practice to outline the area being operated on with a magic marker (typically a Sharpie). When I had hernia repair surgery (an impressive hernia according to my doctor) I recall the surgical assistant asking me to take a Sharpie and outline the area. I also briefly think I remember a lot of laughter and some flashbulbs, though I’m not sure if that was the effects of the anesthesia or some practical jokers in the operating room.
Apparently these Sharpies are used once and then discarded – although since we’re asleep how would we know if they just slipped them back into their dirty back pocket for use on the next patient. Dr. Catherine Burton conducted a study that proved a Sharpie (which has an alcoholic tip) was not prone to collecting germs or bacteria when re-used. She is confident that the marking tip of Sharpies does not pose a risk of bacterial transmission. As long as the pen is cleaned with alcohol swabs between patients then the Sharpies do not need to be discarded after each use. I know that it’s common practice for patients to donate and bring along their own blood to routine surgeries. Are we at a stage where now we must bring along our own Sharpies?