Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Axillary Fallout a Pitfall in the Operating room

Axillary fallout abatement in action.
Tucked scrub top and containment 
garment under scrub top.

One of my most popular posts is from a couple of years ago and it was about the perils of perineal fallout and measures used to control such a menace in the OR. So as a sequel, I would like to present an equally dangerous infection generating body part, the armpits of OR personnel full of hair, sweat, and bacteria. They smell funny for a reason and attempts to camouflage the odor with topical deodorant only exacerbate  the situation.

Asepsis is one of the foundations of successful surgery and begins with the aggressive scrubbing of the operative site. This "prep" is usually conducted by the circulating nurse or a resident. The rub-a-dub-dub of scrubing  the patient's skin produces a copious (we always got brownee points for using that "c"  word in our care plans-old habits are tough to break) amount of to and fro arm movement. Some preppers even resembled marathon runners with their violent herkey-jerkey arm movements. This violent arm oscillation from a fixed point creates lots of friction in one of the most bacteria infested parts of the body, the armpit, second only to the aforementioned disease producing perineums.

My favorite OR supervisor, Alice, paid special notice to the arm swinging preppers and developed one of her famous theories. Hard scientific theory can become boring, but applied sciences like nursing is where the fun begins. Alice believed the armpits shed micrococci and who knows what else when the friction of the arm swinging liberated them from their hairy denizens in the armpit. The patient was especially vulnerable during the prepping procedure because the drapes were yet to be applied.

Alice just love finding fault with men especially those of a lower caste. Male  nurses were the perfect fodder for her "interventions." Alice had been verbally abused by an assortment of surgeons over the years and this created a revenge oriented mind set. Someone had the temerity to ask Alice why she singled out men for her perineal and axillary fallout ministrations and she knowingly replied, "because that's where all the hair is. It's the friction from rubbing two hairy skin planes together that unleashes bacteria."

Putting the brakes on axillary fallout begins with tucked in scrub tops and as I mentioned in my last post, Alice was an aggressive scrub top tucker inner. After ramrodding the top into the pants, Alice always administered a rough skyward yank of the pants which often changed the timbre of the victims voice and marked the laundry of those with poor hygiene.

When disposable gowns came on the scene in the early 1970s a large cache of cloth gowns was dedicated to the pre-operative skin prep. The old cloth gown served as a perfect containment vessel for corralling free falling axillary micrococci thus averting one of the pitfalls of skin preps.


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  3. I liked your wordsmithing with axillary fallout = pitfall. Thanks for the grin!

  4. Hey Thanks For Sharing This Blog
    Very Ingenious

  5. Nah, Alice was wrong. Male nurses weren’t members of the lower caste. It’s just that in an environment where everybody has fake it or make it, someone has to take the fall. It defies logic that you survived a diploma program where your demographic was about as scarce as hens’ teeth back in the day. I suspect many patients are glad you did get through nursing diploma school and trauma of reverse misogynistic female nursing
    supervisors. Previous blog posts have referenced some nursing role models in your family who helped you get through. Perineal or axillary fallout notwithstanding; I relish every day I get to work with people who want to do the right thing when peeps’ lives are at stake.