When I perform my mock OSHA Inspections, I always ask the practice about their sterilization and disinfecting procedures. Recently I was walking down the hall in an office and I saw a staff member wiping some type of tube or wire down with a cloth.
Let’s just say, I was more than curious about what I had just witnessed. At that point, I hadn’t questioned the staff on what instruments and equipment they were using in the office.
The tubing was actually a laryngoscope that had just been used for a procedure. When I questioned the medical assistant, she told me she was disinfecting the instrument with the disinfecting cloth.
Keep in mind, these cloths are specifically manufactured to be used as a surface disinfectant, such as for a counter top.
She told me that was how she had been instructed to disinfect the laryngoscope.
I asked her what her next step would be and she replied she would rinse the scope with soap and water and dry before the next use.
My next question was: Had she read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly disinfect this instrument?
She replied, “No.”
ALWAYS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!
I invited the medical assistant to sit down and chat with me. First of all, this scope is classified as semi-critical and should be disinfected with a high level disinfectant such as glutaraldehyde or a peroxide-based solution, I explained.
The first step in the process is to clean the scope to remove all visible debris. The scope is manually cleaned with low foaming enzymatic cleaner. Next, thoroughly rinse the scope and let air dry before placing in the high level disinfectant.
Never use disinfectant impregnated wipes as the sole means of decontamination.
The majority of laryngoscope blades are disposable. If they are reusable, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to either autoclave or use a high level disinfectant. And remember, the scope handles are considered contaminated, and must be properly cleaned between patients.
Keep in mind, the CDC has recently issued strict and specific guidelines for infection prevention in outpatient settings . Proper handling and disinfecting of instruments between patients is imperative.
See the High-Level Disinfection of Reusable Instruments and Devices section of the CDC Infection Prevention Checklist for Outpatient Settings: Minimum Expectations for Safe Care . It’s a good source.