Study say’s Sharpies can be reused over and over in surgeries without risk of infection – still unsafe to leave inside patient

doctor sharpie.jpg

I just spotted this story over at 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?

X Marks the spot: Sharpies get thumbs-up for marking surgery sites

Categories: Gear Bits


3 replies

  1. Interesting. What always worries me more is the part where they ask you to mark the area/if they are marking the right area. When I had ACL surgery last May, my doctor double checked that he was marking the correct leg, which was good, but I was tempted to ask if the MRI, X-Ray, and charts he presumably had didn’t already indicate that. Also, if he got in there and my ACL was intact, he had the wrong knee.

    Anyhow, while it’s great they can reuse the sharpies, even with the high cost of medicine these days, aren’t sharpies cheap enough to be disposable? Are the hospitals that strapped for cash?

  2. I had wrist surgery a few years ago and, when given the sharpie, I wrote “No!” with a big X on my left wrist, and wrote a big “YES!” on my right forearm, not all that close to the area being incised. I wasn’t too worried about infection.

  3. Photo caption; “Vee ah goink to put in some moah brain mattah right heah.”