Study objective: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) transmission dynamics in the emergency department (ED) are not well defined; environmental surfaces may serve as reservoirs for transmission. This study investigates the effect of patients with a history of MRSA colonization or infection on subsequent MRSA contamination of the ED environment. Methods: Adult ED patients with evidence of an MRSA-positive surveillance result or clinical microbiologic culture in the year preceding their current ED visit were enrolled. Cultures from 5 anatomic sites were obtained to detect active MRSA colonization. After patients’ discharge and before environmental disinfection, up to 16 prespecified surfaces in their ED rooms were cultured. Strain typing was performed by repetitive-sequence polymerase chain reaction on all recovered MRSA isolates to determine concordance with the corresponding patient strain. Results: Of 42 patients enrolled, 25 (60%) remained colonized with MRSA. Nineteen of the 25 ED rooms (76%) occupied by MRSA-colonized patients contained greater than or equal to 1 MRSA-contaminated environmental surface on patient discharge. Surfaces were more likely to be contaminated when rooms were occupied by patients colonized with MRSA at 1 body site (odds ratio 11.7; 95% confidence interval 1.5 to 91.5) and greater than or equal to 2 body sites (odds ratio 16.3; 95% confidence interval 3.1 to 86.8) compared with noncolonized patients. In 16 of the 19 ED rooms (84%) where MRSA was recovered, all environmental strains were concordant with the corresponding patient strain. Conclusion: Contamination of the ED environment with MRSA from actively colonized patients is common. Improved environmental surface disinfection may help reduce transmission of MRSA to ED health care professionals and patients during emergency care.