examining the infection risks posed by a popular medical device

When you are being wheeled into the operating room, you are immediately greeted with the smells of disinfectants, and the sights of shiny surfaces and gleaming instruments. This naturally serves to put your mind somewhat at ease, as you believe that the infection threat posed by contaminated equipment is non-existent.

This is not entirely true, however, as OR patients are increasingly at risk of contracting a potentially deadly infection. Shockingly, this is even true when the instruments used in their procedure have been sanitized in accordance with FDA regulations.

By way of illustration, consider the deadly outbreak of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae — also known as CRE — in hospitals in several major U.S. cities, including here in Pittsburgh, back in 2012.

For those unfamiliar with CRE infections, they are defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having very high levels of resistance to (carbapenem) antibiotics, considered the last line of defense by medical professionals. Indeed, the fatality rate for the infected is as high as 40 percent.

In the 2012 CRE outbreak, health investigators ultimately traced it to a standard medical device that is used in over half-a-million procedures in the nation every year: a duodenoscope.

Duodenoscopes are specialized endoscopes that are placed down the throats of patients and used for a variety of purposes, including the treatment of cancer, gallstones and other digestive system disorders. They can also be used to conduct biopsies, insert stents in bile and pancreatic ducts, and remove obstructions.

In our next post, we’ll continue to explore this story, discussing how it is that duodenoscopes can carry and spread CRE and other bacteria, the stance taken by the FDA, and the steps some hospitals are taking to address the problem.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a hospital-acquired infection that you believe was attributable to medical negligence.

Source: USA Today, “Deadly bacteria on medical scopes trigger infections,” Peter Eisler, Jan. 27, 2015

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