A report released by Pasadena health officials last week stated that 16 patients at Huntington Hospital were infected by the dangerous, drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria from poorly-cleaned medical scopes. Previously, the hospital had said only three patients were infected, downplaying the outbreak. Eleven of the patients have now died.
The duodenoscope is a long tube with a camera at the end, which is inserted into the patient’s throat and upper gastrointestinal tract to treat cancer, gallstones, or problems in the bile ducts. The report blames the design of the Olympus scope and the hospital for not controlling the spread of infection. Investigators found visible debris in the scope-cleaning machines. They also discovered that the hospital was using canned compressed air to dry the scopes, which is not recommended by the manufacturer or cleaning guidelines. The disinfection and maintenance were not sufficient to prevent infection.
Olympus recalled one model of scope due to possible spreading of bacteria between patients, but the scopes in question were a different, older design. A medical safety consultant following the outbreaks believes that many more patients across the country may have been infected than has been reported. Hospital officials claim that patient privacy laws prevented them from telling the public that patients had died.
Hospital staff have identified at least 35 cases of possible infections, 15 being linked to procedures with an Olympus scope. 13 other patients were infected by the bacteria, but not via interaction with the scopes. The hospital is contacting all patients treated by the scopes since January 2013 about the possible infections.
Since the investigation began August 19, there have been no additional scope-related infections because the hospital has changed their practices based on the findings and recommendations of health officials. Olympus specialists have visited the hospital numerous times to train the staff on proper disinfection procedures.
Petersen, Melody. “11 deaths at Huntington Hospital among patients infected by dirty scopes, city report says.” Business. Los Angeles Times, 1 Jun 2016. Web. 5 Jun 2016.