Longitudinal assessment of reprocessing effectiveness for colonoscopes and gastroscopes: Results of visual inspections, biochemical markers, and microbial cultures


      • Endoscopes accumulated contamination, visible damage, and debris over time.
      • Examination of internal components detected damage or fluid inside every endoscope.
      • Routine cleaning verification tests identified endoscopes requiring re-reprocessing.
      • Microbial culture incubation >48 hours fostered growth and pathogen identification.
      • Microbial growth was found in samples from 60% of gastrointestinal endoscopes.


      Flexible endoscopes are currently reused following cleaning and high-level disinfection. Contamination has been found on endoscopes, and infections have been linked to gastrointestinal, respiratory, and urologic endoscopes.


      This longitudinal study involved visual inspections with a borescope, microbial cultures, and biochemical tests for protein and adenosine triphosphate to identify endoscopes in need of further cleaning or maintenance. Three assessments were conducted over a 7-month period. Control group endoscopes reprocessed using customary practices were compared with intervention group endoscopes subjected to more rigorous reprocessing.


      At final assessment, all endoscopes (N = 20) had visible irregularities. Researchers observed fluid (95%), discoloration, and debris in channels. Of 12 (60%) endoscopes with microbial growth, 4 had no growth until after 48 hours. There were no significant differences in culture results by study group, assessment period, or endoscope type. Similar proportions of control and intervention endoscopes (~20%) exceeded postcleaning biochemical test benchmarks. Adenosine triphosphate levels were higher for gastroscopes than colonoscopes (P = .014). Eighty-five percent of endoscopes required repair due to findings.


      More rigorous reprocessing was not consistently effective. Seven-day incubation allowed identification of slow-growing microbes. These findings bolster the need for routine visual inspection and cleaning verification tests recommended in new reprocessing guidelines.

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