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Nearly Three-Quarters Of Commonly Used Medical Scopes Tainted By Bacteria

By Kaiser Health News  
   April 24, 2018

Researchers said the findings confirm earlier work showing that these issues aren't simply confined to duodenoscopes.

This article first appeared April 23, 2018 on Kaiser Health News.

By Chad Terhune

In an ominous sign for patient safety, 71 percent of reusable medical scopes deemed ready for use on patients tested positive for bacteria at three major U.S. hospitals, according to a new study.

The paper, published last month in the American Journal of Infection Control, underscores the infection risk posed by a wide range of endoscopes commonly used to peer deep into the body. It signals a lack of progress by manufacturers, hospitals and regulators in reducing contamination despite numerous reports of superbug outbreaks and patient deaths, experts say.

“These results are pretty scary,” said Janet Haas, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. “These are very complicated pieces of equipment, and even when hospitals do everything right we still have a risk associated with these devices. None of us have the answer right now.”

The study found problems in scopes used for colonoscopies, lung procedures, kidney stone removal and other routine operations. Researchers said the findings confirm earlier work showing that these issues aren’t simply confined to duodenoscopes, gastrointestinal devices tied to at least 35 deaths in the U.S. since 2013, including three at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Scope-related infections also were reported in 2015 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Pasadena’s Huntington Hospital.

The bacteria this latest study found weren’t superbugs, but researchers said there were potential pathogens that would put patients at high risk of infection. The study didn’t track whether the patients became sick from possible exposure.

The study’s authors said the intricate design of many endoscopes continues to hinder effective cleaning and those problems are compounded when health care workers skip steps or ignore basic protocols in a rush to get scopes ready for the next patient. The study identified issues with colonoscopes, bronchoscopes, ureteroscopes and gastroscopes, among others.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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