News from Hepatitis Week of Feb. 16, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 07

Dirty Endoscopes May Transmit Infectious Diseases

Hospitals nationwide are being warned to take safeguards against dirty endoscopes that could possibly transmit infectious diseases such as hepatitis to patients undergoing routine colon exams.

The manufacturer, Olympus America Inc., recently reminded 2,200 hospitals of the proper cleaning procedures of the instrument. Critics of the endoscopes claim they have numerous cavities that are difficult to clean, even by hand.

Olympus issued the warnings after two hospitals in the Sacramento area last month urged 3,250 colon exam patients to undergo blood tests to determine if any had been infected by the device.

Although none of the California patients has reported an infectious disease thus far, patients in other parts of the country have contracted diseases such as hepatitis and the papilloma virus.

An organization that represents gastroenterologists places the odds of a patient being infected by an endoscope at one in 1.8 million.

Trial attorneys who have sued hospitals and clinics over the issue claim that established cleaning guidelines are often ignored in order in a rush to serve more clients.

Other sources: Los Angeles Times