Since the incidence of infections related to procedures in the cardiac catheterization laboratories is low, it is unlikely an adequately powered randomized study of caps and masks will ever be performed. However, the consequences from such infections are significant while the risk of using these precautions is nonexistent. Therefore, it is the recommendation of these guidelines that the use by the operator(s) of a cap, mask, and eye protection be strongly considered, if not mandatory, for all procedures performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory for the protection of the operator.Issues related to blood-borne pathogens are real, especially in today's highly-interventional cath labs, and proper sterile technique improves safety for the patient AND cardiologist. After all, most of our technicians follow the physicians' lead.
If an operator does not use a cap and mask routinely, they should at least be used for procedures in patients who are at increased risk for both an infection as well as for a serious complication, should one develop. Such patients include those with native valve disease or intracardiac prostheses, arterial access performed through a femoral arterial graft, prolonged catheter or procedure times, prolonged use of an in-dwelling sheath following the procedure, intra-aortic balloon pump insertion, per-Infection Control Guidelines cutaneous valvular procedures, and the use of implantable devices such as stents, septal closure devices, and/or VCDs. It may not always be known at the start of the procedure if one of these higher-risk situations will occur. Accordingly, each facility should consider the best policy for their laboratory, with patient safety given the highest priority.