Scope safety is always a hot topic within our industry, and after a recent 2018 study, there may be even more cause for concern. In March of 2018, the American Journal of Infection Control published a paper that looked into the infection risk posed by endoscopes. The study found that 71% of reusable medical scopes deemed ready for use on patients tested positive for bacteria at three major U.S. hospitals.1 The study shows that these issues were found in a wide range of scopes, including scopes used for colonoscopies, lung procedures, and kidney stone removal, among other routine operations.

What is causing this?

In an article from Kaiser Health News, Chad Terhune offers his thoughts. “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.”1 The study’s findings are obviously concerning and disappointing for our industry as a whole. “Sadly, in the 10 years since we’ve been looking into the quality of endoscope reprocessing, we haven’t seen improvement in the field,” said Cori Ofstead, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist in St. Paul, Minn.1 The situation becomes even more concerning when we consider the aging U.S. population. According to the latest population projections, adults 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history by 2035. Aging baby boomers means physicians are doing more and more complicated procedures involving endoscopes. “We’re not moving fast enough to a safer world of reusable medical devices,” said Michael Drues, an industry consultant in Grafton, Mass., who advises device companies and regulators. “There is plenty of fault to go around on device companies, hospitals, clinicians, on basically everybody.”1

What can we do?

If there is one problem we can solve first, it’s improper practice during the reprocessing of scopes. Among the safety issues found in the study, it was discovered that “dripping wet scopes were hung up to dry, which is a known risk because bacteria thrive on the moisture left inside…two hospitals also turned off a cleaning cycle on a commonly used ‘washing machine,’ known as an automated endoscope reprocessor, to save time.”1 These types of safety issues are simply unacceptable. In an effort to keep technicians more accountable, facilities should consider investing in a scope management system. Such a solution can provide your staff with up-to-date processes for each endoscope type, and document and capture data for inventory maintenance and tracking and regulatory compliance. The Censis scope solution, ScopeTrac, even requires technicians to confirm that they have accurately performed each step of the reprocessing instructions. Each step is confirmed independently and documented with a timestamp, keeping your staff more accountable. When considering the complexity of scope reprocessing, the aging U.S. population and the looming increase in scope procedures, a scope management solution may soon be considered a necessity for facilities – not just a nice to have.

FDA Scope Reprocessing Recommendations

Scope Reprocessing

The average cost of reprocessing just one flexible endoscope ranges anywhere from $114.07 to $280.71