Released on Aug 9, 2019

GI Societies Respond to New York Times Article on Duodenoscopes

[Please also read our full statement on this topic.]

To the Editor: The article “These Medical Devices Are Inserted Into 500,000 Patients Each Year — But Are Tough to Sterilize” by Roni Caryn Rabin largely understates the value of duodenoscopes and the procedure they are used for, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). This is a potentially life-saving procedure for hundreds of thousands of patients each year suffering from diseases of the pancreas, bile duct and gallbladder. When a doctor recommends ERCP, it often is because the patient is gravely ill and the benefits of the procedure far outweigh the risks. ERCPs also spare patients much more invasive and dangerous alternatives, including surgery. “Withdrawal” of these instruments from the marketplace is simply not feasible.

We agree that identifying safe and effective solutions that eliminate risk of infection transmission is a top priority. This cannot happen overnight: we cannot adopt a new technology such as disposable scopes without first understanding the new risks we may be introducing to our patients. Our medical societies have been working closely with FDA and industry to identify and properly vet potential solutions. At the same time, hospitals, medical societies and government agencies at all levels continue to pursue best practices to get infection rates as close to zero as possible. Vigilance has been raised and infection rates have improved. Patients who require ERCP should discuss with their physician the risks and benefits.


John J. Vargo II, MD, MPH, FASGE
President, American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Sunanda V. Kane, MD, MSPH, FACG
President, American College of Gastroenterology

Hashem B. El-Serag, MD, MPH, AGAF
President, American Gastroenterological Association

Lea Anne Myers MSN, RN, CGRN
President, Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates


About Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures allow the gastroenterologist to visually inspect the upper gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach and duodenum) and the lower bowel (colon and rectum) through an endoscope, a thin, flexible device with a lighted end and a powerful lens system. Endoscopy has been a major advance in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. For example, the use of endoscopes allows the detection of ulcers, cancers, polyps and sites of internal bleeding. Through endoscopy, tissue samples (biopsies) may be obtained, areas of blockage can be opened and active bleeding can be stopped. Polyps in the colon can be removed, which has been shown to prevent colon cancer.

About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Since its founding in 1941, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) has been dedicated to advancing patient care and digestive health by promoting excellence and innovation in gastrointestinal endoscopy. ASGE, with more than 15,000 members worldwide, promotes the highest standards for endoscopic training and practice, fosters endoscopic research, recognizes distinguished contributions to endoscopy, and is the foremost resource for endoscopic education. Visit and for more information and to find a qualified doctor in your area.


American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
3300 Woodcreek Drive Downers Grove, IL 60515
P (630) 573-0600
F (630) 963-8332

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