Unsterile endoscope puts patients at risk for deadly diseases

Pittsburgh-based St. Clair Hospital sent letters to 75 patients after officials discovered that improperly cleaned equipment may have exposed them to blood-borne diseases like HIV or Hepatitis B or C, the Pittsburgh Tribune-River reports. 

While the equipment in question--a two-channel endoscope used for patients experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding--had been cleaned weekly with a special solution, one of the two channels likely had not been fully disinfected because of a missing piece of tubing. After a hospital staffer discovered a spot on the endoscope on Nov. 12, Olympus, the scope's manufacturer, told hospital officials about the missing tubing. 

The equipment had been in use since April 2005. 

St. Clair Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alan Yeasted downplayed the incident, calling the risks for infection minimal, a sentiment echoed by Allegheny County Health Department director Dr. Bruce Dixon, according to the Tribune-River

"We're quite confident that we're in really good shape," Yeasted said. Still, he added that the endoscope no longer is being used at the hospital. "We won't bring it back to use until we're convinced that our cleaning method is impeccable," he said. 

For more information:
- here's the Pittsburgh Tribune-River story