An April 23 article in Kaiser Health News and the LA Times reports on a study that found some remaining microbes on a small number of medical scopes after cleaning. It is important to note that this was a very small study of three facilities and should not be considered an indication of the effectiveness of scope reprocessing (cleaning) in the thousands of other healthcare facilities in the US.
ASGE agrees that any lapses in following reprocessing protocol are unacceptable. This protocol includes diligently following manufacturers’ instructions, guidance from the federal government, and guidance from professional societies including ASGE.
An example of such guidance is the Essential Elements of a Reprocessing Program for Flexible Endoscopes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations. https://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/flexible-endoscope-reprocessing.pdf
Professional societies, including ASGE, as well as federal agencies, have been working for the past several years to ensure that every medical facility recognizes the vital importance of vigilance in cleaning and disinfecting scopes used for screening, diagnosing and treating patients.
As a result of these efforts, we believe that the vast majority of healthcare facilities have elevated their processes and practices to keep any risk of infection at the lowest level possible.
However, this is an important reminder that each and every endoscopy center MUST adhere to the latest guidelines and instructions for reprocessing their equipment. We must not let our guard down. Every facility must have in place a reprocessing program that includes thorough training and ongoing education, with the ability to assess competency of those trained to reprocess instruments and devices.
ASGE has numerous resources to guide healthcare providers in endoscope reprocessing and other important infection control issues, and keeps members apprised of current guidance on this matter through ongoing and timely communications.
Patients will want to ask their healthcare provider about the facility in which their procedure will take place. Facilities or units should be asked what guidelines they follow for cleaning and disinfecting scopes. Patients can also ask how the facility ensures and assesses the competency of its reprocessing staff on an ongoing basis.
While all healthcare facilities must meet specific standards, there are additional voluntary measures they can take to demonstrate their commitment to quality and safety. For example, they can pursue accreditation by AAAHC, the Joint Commission, or similar bodies. For gastrointestinal endoscopy units, ASGE offers the Endoscopy Unit Recognition Program.
No medical procedure is without some small risk. But at ASGE, we take seriously the best practices and recommendations that help to avoid these risks and maximize the safety of patients.