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Health note: Unclean colonoscopy instruments at issue

Male surgeon standing beside tray of surgical equipment, profile

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Unclean colonoscopy instruments at issue

Bits and pieces of “biological dirt” from people’s colons are being left on three in 20 of the instruments used to examine the lower digestive tract, according to a study at five hospitals nationwide.

“Three out of 20 is an unexpectedly high number of endoscopes failing a cleanliness criterion,” said Marco Bommarito, an investigator with 3M’s infection prevention division, which conducted the study. “Clearly, we’d like no endoscopes to fail a cleanliness rating.”

Rates for biodirt were as high as 30 percent for reusable endoscopes used for upper gastrointestinal exams, according to the study, presented at the annual conference for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The study comes after thousands of patients in the last four years have had to undergo HIV and hepatitis testing after authorities uncovered improper cleaning practices at hospitals, including several run by the Veterans Affairs Department.

Since 2009, at least four patients at VA facilities have tested positive for the AIDS virus after undergoing colonoscopies at the federal facilities in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. About 50 million Americans undergo colonoscopies each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued new cleaning and sterilization guidelines in 2008. More outbreaks have been linked to contaminated endoscopes than to any other medical device, the centers reported.

— LOS ANGELES TIMES

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