Study finds suprising matter on endoscopes

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

In a surprising study that included five different hospitals, flexible endoscopes, which are used to examine the GI tract and colon, were tested for cleanliness, and the results were disturbing. Approximately 15 percent of these medical instruments were found to be harboring what is known as ‘bio-dirt,” which can be cells and other small matter from previous usage. It is speculated that these findings will be similar in hospitals across the country as this result was found even after the endoscopes had been cleaned. It was not stated whether any of the hospitals were in New York.

A lead research specialist and study author who works at 3M’s infection prevention division was surprised by the number of dirty instruments that were found in the endoscopy suites of the hospitals that volunteered for the survey. The participating hospital’s names were not released. Since a single scope can be used 6-12 times in a single day, and there are tens of millions of procedures using these instruments each year, the discovery of these dirty instruments caused hospitals to issue warnings to endoscopy patients that they should be tested for HIV and Hepatitis B and C among other diseases as such medical errors could be the source of disease.

This study, researchers fear, could inspire more reluctance in people to undergo endoscopies. Even though the American Society of Gastroenterology issued a guideline stating that infections from dirty endoscopes were as rare as one in 1.8 million, researchers believe this number is actually higher due to the fact that the source of a disease may not be obvious.

A New York lawyer has affirmed that while it could be tough to determine if the hospital is at fault for an infection without self-reporting, if fault is determined to lie with the hospital, it could sustain economic and non-economic damage. If you or someone you know has suddenly developed an infectious disease following an invasive hospital procedure, a well-qualified medical malpractice attorney may be the only way to determine the root of the problem when a hospital does not engage in self-reporting.

Source: CNBC, “Dirty Endoscopes Raising Alarms for Colonoscopies“, Dan Mangan , June 07, 2013

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