Background: Patient infection from contaminated gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopes can generally be attributed to failure to follow appropriate reprocessing guidelines. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration recommended a 45-minute exposure of GI endoscopes to 2.4% glutaraldehyde solutions heated to 25 degrees C. Simultaneously, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), the American Gastroenterological Association, and the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates endorsed a reprocessing guideline that emphasized manual precleaning and recommended a 20-minute exposure to a 2.4% glutaraldehyde solution at room temperature. Since then, little information has become available regarding actual reprocessing practices in the United States.
Methods: A previously developed questionnaire regarding endoscopic disinfection practices was mailed to randomly selected members of the ASGE.
Results: The survey was sent to 730 members and 294 responded (40.3%). Appropriate manual cleaning (suctioning detergent through the accessory channel and brushing the channel and valves) is performed by 90.7% of respondents; 69.9% then use automated reprocessors for disinfection or sterilization. Glutaraldehyde is the most widely used chemical disinfectant; 85.3% use glutaraldehyde as one of their primary disinfectants. The most commonly used disinfection time with 2.4% glutaraldehyde is 20 minutes (83.9%) followed by 45 minutes (11.4%). Only 23.8% of users of 2.4% glutaraldehyde heat their solution; 59.6% of centers test disinfectant concentration daily or more frequently; 74.0% sterilize nondisposable forceps before use; 29.2% of centers re-use disposable endoscopic accessories (which are more frequently disinfected rather than sterilized). Twelve respondents reported cases of endoscopic cross infection.
Conclusions: A significant minority of endoscopy centers still do not completely conform to recent ASGE, American Gastroenterological Association, and the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates guidelines on disinfection, and they may not be appropriately disinfecting GI endoscopes. Rigid adherence to recommended guidelines is strongly encouraged to ensure patient safety.