Challenges in achieving effective high-level disinfection in endoscope reprocessing.


Ofstead & Associates, Inc, St. Paul, MN. Electronic address: [Email]


Endoscope reprocessing is often ineffective, and microbes frequently remain on endoscopes after the use of high-level disinfectants (HLDs). Several factors impact reprocessing effectiveness, including non-adherence to guidelines, use of damaged endoscopes, use of insoluble products during endoscopy, insufficient cleaning, contaminated rinse water, and inadequate drying before storage. Our team suspected that issues with HLD chemistries and monitoring could also contribute to reprocessing failures. We conducted a mixed-methods analysis of published literature, our interviews with frontline personnel, and evidence from our previous studies. The evidence showed that reusable HLDs commonly failed tests for minimum effective concentration (MEC) before their maximum usage periods. MEC tests also detected failures associated with single-use HLDs that did not fully deploy. These failures were due to product issues, process complexities, and personnel non-adherence with guidelines and manufacturer instructions. HLDs will likely continue to be used for the foreseeable future. More research is needed to assess real-world practice patterns related to the high-level disinfection step and MEC testing and to establish more realistic usage periods for reusable HLD chemistries. Manufacturers and researchers should evaluate the ability of technological solutions and engineered safeguards to overcome human error. Recognition of the need for quality improvement is growing, and infection preventionists should take action to build on this momentum and collaborate with manufacturers, endoscopists, and reprocessing personnel to improve the effectiveness of high-level disinfection.


Automated endoscope reprocessor (AER),Flexible endoscope,Instructions for use (IFU),Minimum effective concentration,Quality assurance,

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