There is a common perception that reusable devices, including endoscopes, surgical instruments, ultrasound wands, leads and cables, are “safe” as long as they are cleaned. And even if they are not completely disinfected, they are typically not too invasive and therefore don’t pose very high risks. This type of thinking is wrong – very wrong.
Don’t believe us? In the last four years, there have been six major CRE outbreaks due to endoscopic devices. A recent study found the presence of HPV on ultrasound wants, dental instruments caused Hepatitis B and C infections in Virginia and The Methodist Hospital in Houston had to close ORs due to infections caused by arthroscopic shavers.
The reason reusable devices can pose such dangers is in the name: reusable. Simply put, they are used over and over again to treat and diagnose patients. They include more invasive devices like endoscopes and surgical instruments, to things that might not even come into direct contact with a patient like monitor cords. And many of these devices are small and intricate, making them difficult to clean.
Reprocessing guidelines from the FDA have been a step in the right direction, but ensuring proper decontamination in the real world is a complex challenge. Some of the deadly outbreaks noted above were due to improper cleaning, others occurred following approved protocols.
In our next blog, we’ll discuss three steps the healthcare community need to take to reduce the infection risks around reusable devices.
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