Louisiana: Endoscopes Were Not Properly Sterilized

Ochsner Health System (OHS) is notifying more than 200 endoscopy patients to get screened for a range of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis. The announcement this week marks the second time this year that a New Orleans hospital has potentially exposed patients undergoing various gastrointestinal procedures to blood-borne diseases due to improperly sanitized equipment.

Affected patients are those who had procedures at OHS' Jefferson Highway campus between June 25, 2010, and March 2, 2011. A routine audit of laboratory practices raised concerns that some endoscopes may have been cleaned only manually, without undergoing a second automated disinfection. OHS said the audit "could not confirm" that the equipment used on 222 patients had been properly sanitized.

"The risk is very small," said Dr. Joseph E. Bisordi, chief medical officer for OHS. "We expect no transmission of infections." If a patient has contracted an infection, Bisordi said OHS will "take up each case on an individual basis and offer them the support that they need."

In all, nearly 11,000 people had endoscopic procedures at OHS during the time in question. Ochsner's audit cleared all but 222 patients, Bisordi said.

"Transmission of infection as a result of gastrointestinal endoscopes is extremely rare, but our patients deserve Ochsner's complete support, and we will provide support to them for as long as it takes," said OHS CEO Dr. Patrick Quinlan. "We know this is unsettling news to many of our patients and our employees. ... We deeply regret that this occurred."

In January, Tulane Medical Center alerted 360 patients of infection-control lapses in its endoscopic sanitation procedures.