Major article| Volume 41, ISSUE 12, P1188-1194, December 2013

Reported gastrointestinal endoscope reprocessing lapses: The tip of the iceberg

Published:September 09, 2013DOI:


      Most cases of microbial transmission to patients via contaminated endoscopes have resulted from nonadherence to reprocessing guidelines. We evaluated the occurrence, features, and implications of reprocessing lapses to gauge the nature and breadth of the problem in the context of widely available and accepted practice guidelines.


      We examined peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed literature to identify lapses reported in North America during 2005 to 2012 resulting in patient exposure to potentially contaminated gastrointestinal endoscopes.


      Lapses occurred in various types of facilities and involved errors in all major steps of reprocessing. Each lapse continued for several months or years until the problem was discovered except for one that was described as a single incident. There were significant implications for patients, including notification and testing, microbial transmission, and increased morbidity and mortality. Only 1 reprocessing lapse was found in a peer-reviewed journal article, and other incidents were reported in governmental reports, legal documents, conference abstracts, and media reports.


      Reprocessing lapses are an ongoing and widespread problem despite the existence of guidelines. Lack of publication in peer-reviewed literature contributes to the perception that lapses are rare and inconsequential. Reporting requirements and epidemiologic investigations are needed to develop better evidence-based policies and practices.

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