Archive Gastroenterology 2019

No More Dirty Endoscopes

Enhance the performance of your reprocessing team and reduce the likelihood of human errors that could impact patient safety.

James Collins

James Collins, BS, RN, CNOR


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
IMPORTANT JOB Contaminated endoscopes introduce microorganisms to a patient's GI tract that spread to adjacent tissue or organs.

Endoscopes are complex instruments with complex reprocessing requirements, but cross-contamination risks during GI procedures are minimal, right? Not necessarily. A recent Johns Hopkins study showed that infection rates within a week of upper endoscopies and colonoscopies performed at some ambulatory surgical centers were 100 times higher than previously believed. The infection rate of a routine colonoscopy was thought to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in a million. According to the study, however, the rate is actually closer to 1 in 1,000.

Surgery center staffs are often unaware that their patients suffer serious infections after they leave their facilities, says study author Susan Hutfless, PhD, SM, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. Ignorance might be bliss, but Dr. Hutfless points out that in this case it’s preventing surgery center administrators from being motivated to improve their infection control practices. The following steps will prevent you from being lulled into the same false sense of security about the cleanliness of your endoscopes.

1. Perform spot checks

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing can be invaluable in helping your reprocessing techs monitor how well they brush and flush the working channels of scopes during the manual cleaning process. ATP testing detects microorganisms that remain in the scope’s channels and that must be removed before high-level disinfection can occur. The tests can be done in a matter of minutes and provide immediate results. Of course, every second counts in a busy GI center and adding any steps to the scope reprocessing process could impact overall efficiencies, so look for a testing product that’s easy to use, reliable and ready to read in minutes.

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