How IAQ Affects Infection Transmission
CPETs (cardiopulmonary function tests) are performed for a variety of reasons, such as patient screening before surgery or as part of a routine physical exam. Just as often, these tests are used to diagnose illness or discover the source of health problems. For both patients and doctors, CPETs are a necessary tool for gaining information. But if a sterile indoor air quality (IAQ) is not maintained, these tests can also create a scenario in which germs can be spread.
Cardiopulmonary function is the working relationship between heart and lungs relating to the blood flow via the pulmonary artery. Cardiopulmonary function tests refer to a comprehensive range of assessments used to observe heart and lung function in a patient. These include both exercise and lung function tests, as well as other assessments as deemed necessary by a cardiopulmonary specialist.
Cardiopulmonary illnesses are a range of conditions that affect both the heart and the lungs. The cardiovascular and pulmonary systems are closely connected and complications with one system can affect the other. For example, if lung capacity is diminished, it can stress the heart as it works to get oxygen from the lungs into the blood. Similarly, if the heart is compromised and cannot efficiently pump blood to the lungs, shortness of breath can occur. (3)
Cardiopulmonary stress (or exercise) tests (CPETs) measure heart and lung fitness before, during, and after exercise based on the amount of oxygen is used during the evaluation. A patient’s cardiovascular and ventilatory systems are stressed, creating cardiac and respiratory output that can be analyzed in order to find potential abnormalities. (1) For this, a patient is most often on a stationary bike or treadmill.
But before the exercise portion of the test is administered, patients most often begin with a PFT, or pulmonary function test. This non-invasive assessment measures lung efficiency. PFTs gauge lung capacity, volume, rate of airflow, and gas exchange. The results of PFTs help healthcare providers diagnose lung disorders and devise appropriate treatment plans. (2)
Patients undergoing a PFT will be required to inhale, hold their breath, and inhale as instructed. There are different methods for testing pulmonary function, the two most common being spirometry and plethysmography. A spirometer is a device with a mouthpiece that is connected to an electronic machine that measures breath. During a plethysmography test, the person being tested sits or stands in a sealed box, where the pressure of their breathing is monitored and timed.
These PFTs may be done alone, together, or in conjunction with other procedures that test pulmonary health.
If a full CPET is being done, a patient will go on to the exercise portion after their PFT. EKG wires will be placed on their chest to monitor heartbeats and breaths. Then, a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter (to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood) will be added. The patient will wear a mouthpiece or mask and will be asked to breathe through the attached tube. The purpose of this part of the test is to see how a patient’s heart and lungs react to the stress of exercise.
Because of the nature of these tests and the fact that a fair percentage of patients taking them do so because of underlying illness – these patients are medically vulnerable to any germs or contaminants in the surrounding area. Therefore, the IAQ (indoor air quality) in a CPET testing facility should be pure and unspoiled. Indoor air that is free of pollutants is absolutely critical – not only for visiting patients, but for workers as well.
It is easy to understand how air quality in a CPET testing facility can become compromised. Some patients who are being tested are sick and may have an illness that is communicable. These same patients, as part of their CPET test, blow air – creating airborne droplets which create the potential for cross-infection within the surrounding area. (4)
Any biological contaminant presents a potential risk. But in a medical environment, viruses and bacteria are the most aggressive pollutants due to the speed of travel and ease of inhalation of microscopic particles. (5) The fine spray of salvia and bodily fluids is a common avenue of transmission in a CPET testing facility, perhaps more so than droplets left on equipment because adequate cleaning measures are generally instituted in these types of healthcare settings. But indoor air pollution is often overlooked.
Air Purification Is Crucial
Medical facilities are charged with protecting the wellbeing of both their patients and healthcare workers by providing a safe and healthy workplace. Part of this duty is instituting and carrying out an infection control policy that includes using personal protective devices such as gloves and masks, but also cleaning and sterilizing surfaces to remove germs. Unfortunately, many healthcare providers fail to include Indoor Air Quality control in their sterilization efforts.
To reduce the risk to patients and healthcare workers, experts recommend a multi-layered approach to achieving a safe and healthy IAQ. This includes indoor air filtration. Air purifying products such as our S-987 compact air cleaning model have proven effective in removing even the smallest particulates from the air, keeping both patients and workers safe from airborne contaminants.
At AIRS, Inc., we protect our healthcare customers by providing them with high quality products and IAQ expertise. Contact us today for a free estimate from one of our clean air specialists.