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Shortly after the festive decorations went up, our Clinical Technologist was called to investigate a ‘broken’ blood gas analyser (ABL810 Flex; Radiometer, Brønshøj, Denmark). Many years’ experience had furnished him with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the kit’s and the staff’s foibles. Deft removal of tinsel (which was in contact with the analyser’s screen) restored it to full working order.

In common with many current medical devices, the ABL810 interface utilises infrared touch screen technology. A Cartesian coordinate system determines the position of the user’s touch and consequent translation into a command. To ensure accuracy, set preconditions characterise a ‘valid touch’ and the phenomenon of ‘multiple touching’ (Fig. 1), is interpreted as an error.

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Figure 1.  ABL810 blood gas analyser machine a) decorated, with touch screen failing to advance to the log-in page, and b) with the decoration removed and the touch screen advancing normally.

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We suggest that multiple touching is a particular hazard during the festive season and urge colleagues to exercise caution at this time of year.

No external funding and no competing interests declared.