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Study: many endoscopes insufficiently cleaned between procedures

Having a colonoscopy is likely not on anyone’s to-do list. However, they are an important life-saving procedure. Every year, several millions of patients undergo this procedure. Shockingly, a new study revealed that many of the endoscopes used in these procedures are unsterile, carrying cells, matter and other “biological dirt” from previous patients.

The study’s findings were recently presented at the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology conference. Researchers looked at 275 medical instruments used in endoscopy procedures at five hospitals. The researchers checked the instruments for the presence of adenosine triphosphate, which indicates possible biological contamination.

Overall, it was found that about 15 percent of all endoscopes used are improperly cleaned, needlessly putting patients at a risk of developing a blood infection. Specifically, the study found that:

• 30 percent of duodenoscopes were not sufficiently cleaned.

• 3 percent of colonoscopies contained traces of “biological dirt.”

• 24 percent of gastroscopes were insufficiently sterilized.

Although the thought of unclean endoscopes is enough to turn anyone’s stomach, the harm that can cause patients far outweighs the disgusting factor. According to medical experts, improper cleaning of endoscopes can put patients at risk for developing serious bloodborne infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C from the previous patient.

The use of filthy endoscopes have already transitioned into medical malpractice verdicts. In 2012, a jury awarded an Air Force veteran $1.25 million when he sued a VA hospital for contracting hepatitis C following an endoscope procedure. In the lawsuit, the endoscope used was allegedly contaminated.

Source: AboutLawsuits.com, "Endoscope Equipment Often Not Properly Cleaned: Study," Irvin Jackson, June 11, 2013

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