There have been many reports of healthcare facilities having to notify patients to get tested for diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV because potentially contaminated devices used in procedures. Many times these incidents involve endoscopes.
Endoscope scopes are challenging devices to clean and disinfect. In fact, they among the most difficult to process for numerous reasons. However, endoscopes must be managed properly for the safety of all of those who will receive one for use during a procedure.
Although there are tons of materials that have been published on “how to clean” these devices, it really comes down to a few simple principles, no matter where these scopes will be used:
- Know your device. This means not only having the manufacturer’s instructions readily available, but making sure that anyone who will be using and/or cleaning these scopes is well informed with specific requirements for processing.
- Make sure you have the right cleaning and disinfection agents. Some manufacturers detail the exact type of cleaning solutions and disinfectants that must be used on the device. If this is the case, you must use what is indicated by the manufacturer. This is not an option. Failure to do so could damage the device or render it safe for reuse for numerous reasons.
- Make sure that you know you local, state, and federal regulations of chemical usage. Some chemicals require certain ventilation necessities and/or have requirements for monitoring. Check with your state department of health and the EPA and review OSHA requirements for specific chemical usage at your facility.
- Ensure that any devices that you use to help clean and prepare your scopes are appropriate, such as the type and size of any brushes and/or leak testers. Using the wrong items could cause damage to the scopes or could impede effective cleaning.
These are a couple reminders that are sometimes lost in the moment when turning equipment in often very quick paced environments. A little upfront time and periodic reviewing of instructions you believe you know by heart already will help to prevent the spread of unnecessary infection to an unsuspecting person (or more).
Editor’s note: Download the High-Level Disinfection of Endoscopes section from the CDC Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008 from the OSHA Healthcare Advisor Tools page.