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Dirty Surgical Equipment May Have Been Used On 12,000 Pediatric Patients

Seattle Children's Hospital advises those who visited its surgery center to get tested for hepatitis, HIV.

Published: August 27, 2015

Up to 12,000 pediatric patients at the Seattle Children's Hospital may have been exposed to bloodborne pathogens since 2010, the hospital reported, after officials discovered its surgery center was reprocessing equipment incorrectly.

Last Thursday, the hospital's Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center found debris on instruments that should have been clean, The Seattle Times reported. The finding led officials to discover mistakes in the center's reprocessing, which could go back as far as 2010, when the surgery center first opened.

The errors occurred during the manual washing of instruments, the hospital reported, but it did not elaborate. Officials told the Times that high-temperature sterilization was completed correctly on the instruments, which included equipment used across specialties.

The hospital says the error has since been corrected, but because officials don't know exactly how long the problem existed, they are warning all of the center's patients to get tested for hepatitis B and C and HIV. Officials stress, though, that the chance of the instruments being contaminated is small since there is a low incidence of bloodborne infections in children.

"While the risk of infection to patients is very low, we don't know the exact risk to each patient at this time," the center said in a statement. "We are sending letters to patients who may be impacted to explain what happened and offer recommendations."

This is the second time in just over a year that the Seattle Children's Hospital had a problem with reprocessing equipment. The Seattle Times reported that in January 2014, officials warned around 100 patients that a dirty colonoscope might have been used in their procedure. None of those patients came down with an infection.

Kendal Gapinski


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