In the realm of gastrointestinal (GI) health and endoscopic procedures, the importance of effective endoscope reprocessing cannot be overstated. A critical aspect often overlooked is the storage of flexible endoscopes post-reprocessing. Infection prevention specialists and sterile processing professionals often encounter GI centers employing suboptimal storage methods that could lead to contamination – a gap in the chain of reprocessing that must be addressed.
Frank Edward Myers, MA, CIC, FAPIC, an expert in infection prevention at the University of California San Diego Health, has witnessed firsthand the use of makeshift storage solutions
, such as homemade cabinets or modified units with inadequate ventilation. These outdated practices are incompatible with today’s heightened standards.
The latest guidelines from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), released in 2021, underscore the necessity for storage cabinets specifically designed for flexible endoscopes. According to the AAMI and organizations like the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA), not only should facilities implement protocols for cleaning the storage cabinets based on the manufacturers’ instructions, but the very design of these cabinets must also support a flawless endoscope reprocessing cycle.
Modern storage cabinets should include either HEPA-filtered or instrument air circulation, maintained at a continuous positive pressure.
‘Conventional cabinets ‘ meet these criteria yet lack the ability to force air through the scopes’ channels. In contrast, ‘drying cabinets’ , take storage a step further by incorporating a forced-air delivery system that targets each endoscope channel, thereby reducing internal moisture and the risk of microbial growth.
Endoscope reprocessing achieves a high level of disinfection or liquid chemical sterilization; however, without proper storage drying, residual moisture can present a daunting challenge. Numerous studies referenced in the latest standards reveal that the drying phase in automated endoscope reprocessors may leave moisture behind, posing a risk. Drying cabinets come as a revolutionary solution, equipped with humidity monitors to ensure that endoscopes remain dry and safe for patient use.
In America, the adoption of these advanced drying cabinets, a standard in European healthcare, is gaining momentum, and future consensus may well establish them as a preferred option over conventional cabinets. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s warning letters to endoscope manufacturers over reprocessing techniques underscore the urgency for embracing these improved storage methods.
Despite their initial investment ranging from $4,000 to $8,000, drying cabinets offer substantial protection against life-threatening infections, outweighing their cost. Myers emphasizes the importance of such investments, not just to uphold an endoscopy center’s reputation, but more critically, for patient safety.
AAMI standards also advise that these storage cabinets be placed in secure, clean environments away from potential contaminants, highlighting the need for strict adherence to best practices in endoscope reprocessing. It is essential for facilities to designate personnel to manage HEPA filter replacements, clearly document these maintenance activities, and ensure routine cleanings of the cabinets.
Moving forward, the use of specialized cabinets designed for the complete desiccation of flexible endoscopes is pivotal in the scope reprocessing cycle. Protecting patients from the threat of infection requires adherence to these advanced storage solutions, thereby setting a new benchmark in endoscopic care and patient safety.
To ensure that this crucial desiccation step is both efficient and thoroughly documented, look no further than ScopeCycle®—the endoscope tracking software that proves indispensable in this sophisticated reprocessing sequence. Embrace the power of ScopeCycle®, the system that not only streamlines this process but also secures compliance with key guidelines from SGNA, CDC, and Multi-Society. Its adept handling of everything from staff training to meticulous inventory management is integrated into user-friendly, customizable reports. With guided workflows, integration with select imaging systems and cloud-based hosting, ScopeCycle® offers a swift, cost-effective installation, ensuring a seamless transition to elevated patient safety and strengthened staff accountability within your facility.