Study: Endoscopes Not Always Appropriately Cleaned

endoscopes_improper_cleaningFor every 20 flexible endoscopes used to examine patients’ gastrointestinal tracts and colons, three—or 15 percent—were never properly cleaned, according to a new study.

This means that those 15 percent were laden with unacceptable levels of so-called “bio dirt,” according to HealthDay News. Bio dirt is composed of cells and other matter from a patient’s body, which could potentially lead to increased risks for infections in other patients, the researchers found. Study findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

The researchers examined 275 flexible endoscopes—duodenoscopes, gastroscopes, and colonoscopies—used at five hospitals in the United States and discovered that 30 percent, 24 percent and 3 percent, respectively, did not pass a cleanliness rating, according to HealthDay News. “Three out of 20 is an unexpectedly high number of endoscopes failing a cleanliness criterion,” lead investigator Marco Bommarito, who is the lead research specialist at the 3M Infection Prevention Division, said in an APIC news release. “Clearly, we’d like no endoscopes to fail a cleanliness rating.”

The issues surrounding inappropriately cleaned endoscopes at medical facilities, nationwide has forced thousands of patients to undergo testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more outbreaks of these dangerous blood borne diseases have been associated with contaminated endoscopes than any other device, HealthDay News reported.

Every year in the U.S., some 15-20-million endoscopy procedures are conducted with reusable endoscope devices. The procedures are meant to screen various parts of the gastrointestinal tract for diseases, such as cancer, HealthDay News explained. For example, duodenoscopes examine the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine; gastroscopes examine the stomach, and colonoscopes examine the colon.

“The cleaning protocols for flexible endoscopes need improvement, such as guidelines tailored to the type of scope or identifying if there is a critical step missing in the manual cleaning process, and documented quality-control measures,” Bommarito said. “These types of improvements could have a positive impact on patient safety,” he added, according to HealthDay News.

HIV and hepatitis B and C are spread by contact with infected body fluids. Vaccines exist only for hepatitis B. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C can all be fatal.

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome); AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. Hepatitis B and C are liver diseases that can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Hepatitis B is a dangerous liver infection that can be transmitted through blood and blood products. Of those who develop hepatitis B, 10 percent develop a chronic form of the disease that can lead to liver damage.

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