Bacteria-Contaminated Scopes Put Patients At Risk

Posted By Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC || 26-Jan-2015

Scopes used to treat various digestive system disorders can transmit harmful bacteria like CRE, but many doctors are in the dark as to how to mitigate the problem.

In 2012, reports from hospitals in Seattle and other major cities like Pittsburgh and Chicago revealed that patients were getting sick and some were dying after contracting a harmful, antibiotic resistant bacteria called CRE. The source of the bacteria? Medical scopes.

The common denominator in all reported cases, according to investigators, was a specialized type of endoscope – a medical device that passes down a patient's throat to perform procedures on conditions like gallstones and even cancer. Investigators learned that conventional cleaning was not enough to remove the bacteria, allowing it to spread to other patients.

Of the six outbreaks and dozens of patient infections that have occurred since 2012, a high concentration of patients underwent endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or "ERCP."

CRE isn't the only type of bacteria being transmitted by the scopes, but it is the most obvious. Patients who contract CRE usually display more "red flag" symptoms, prompting rapid response with serious antibiotics. Investigators may not even look at cases of patients infected with other types of bacteria.

Although hospitals have identified the problem, they are still largely in the dark as to how to prevent the bacteria from spreading –the Food and Drug Administration and duodenoscope manufacturers have offered virtually no guidance on preventing future outbreaks.

The FDA has come out with some less-than-hopeful news that "effective cleaning of all areas of the duodenoscope may not be possible." As of right now, the FDA says that the benefits of the devices continue to outweigh the risks. Many health officials posit that the FDA and scope manufacturers could be doing much more to help doctors and hospitals reduce the risk of scope-transmitted bacteria cases.

Some hospitals are taking a proactive approach instead of waiting on the FDA – Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle is one of them. Virginia Mason has developed new protocols for the scopes that involve not only extensive disinfecting, but also bacteria testing before the scope can be used again on another patient. These new measures are costly, but well worth it if it prevents patient illness and death.

Paulson Coletti is listed as one of the "Best Law Firms in America" in medical malpractice and product liability litigation for plaintiffs and attorneys at our firm have been voted "Lawyer of the Year" in these areas of practice as well. We know how to advocate for victims of medical negligence and dangerous medical devices. If you or someone you love was injured in this way, we invite you to contact our firm for a free evaluation of your case.