We know X marks the spot on pirate maps — but it took a six-month University of Alberta study to show that felt pens used to mark the X where surgeons should cut can be reused, saving cash-strapped hospitals some treasure.
The study found that Sharpies, the felt pens often used by medical staff to mark the spot of an operation, don’t need to be discarded after each use.
That’s good news from a savings point of view, since more than 97,000 surgeries were performed in local hospitals last year. Each Sharpie costs more than $1, so that’s a potential saving of close to $100,000.
Infection control specialist Dr. Sarah Forgie came up with the Sharpie study after a chief surgeon questioned the need to throw out markers after each use, standard practice at most hospitals. The chief surgeon questioned if there really was any evidence that the nib of Sharpies can actually transmit bacteria.
A six-month study she headed up found that Sharpies don’t pose a risk of transmitting disease because they use an alcohol-based ink, and alcohol kills bacteria.
A surgeon can carry a Sharpie marker and use it on all of their patients until the ink runs out.