Aims: To assess the adequacy of current decontamination methods for the Goldmann tonometer in the context of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Methods: Reusable Goldmann tonometer prisms were used to perform applanation tonometry on different groups of patients. Following tonometry, retained materials were collected from the tonometer prism head and examined using cytological methods. The used tonometers were subjected to a series of conditions to evaluate their effect on the residual cell numbers found on the tonometer heads. These included wiping alone and wiping or washing followed by disinfection of the tonometer prism. The effect on cell counts of drying the prism overnight was studied, as well as drying overnight and then wiping and disinfecting. All disinfections were performed with sodium hypochlorite (0.05% w/v). Results: The cytology specimens of 69 patients were studied. Patients using eye drops regularly desquamated significantly more corneal epithelial cells with Goldmann tonometry than patients not using regular eye drops. The mean number of cells was 156 (range 0-470) for patients using eye drops and 14 (4-57) for patients not using eye drops (p = 0.004). Wiping or washing the tonometer head reduced the cell number significantly but neither method completely eliminated cells. The two methods were not significantly different (p=0.3). Drying left a large number of cells (23-320 cells). Conclusions: Retained corneal epithelial cells, following the standard decontamination routine of tonometer prisms, may represent potential prion infectivity. Manual cleaning was the most important step in reducing epithelial cell retention.