Iatrogenic meningitis is a rare complication of spinal anaesthesia. It is mandatory to use a technique which minimises the risk of introducing bacteria into the subarachnoid space. Currently available fentanyl ampoules require a careful drawing-up technique, as the outside of the ampoule is not sterile and there is potential to contaminate the contents in the drawing-up process. We designed a pilot laboratory study to determine the extent of bacterial contamination of fentanyl solutions drawn up from non-sterile packaged glass fentanyl ampoules using three different methods: aspirating through a 5 microm filter needle only, aspirating through a 5 microm filter needle after swabbing the neck of the ampoule with isopropyl alcohol and aspirating through an antibacterial filter in addition to the 5 microm filter needle. Ten anaesthetists used each method once, in randomised order to draw up solution from three different fentanyl ampoules. Samples underwent bacterial culture in blood agar and enrichment broth for 48 hours. No significant growth was seen in any sample. This pilot study did not identify any bacterial contamination of fentanyl solution irrespective of which of the three methods for aspiration was used.
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