July 20, 2019
An endoscopy is a useful medical procedure that can examine parts of the body that were once only accessible via exploratory surgery.
However, studies show the risk of infection from the equipment used in the procedure is higher than previously thought.
What is an Endoscopy?
An endoscopy is a nonsurgical procedure that examines a person’s digestive tract. An endoscope is a flexible tube with a tiny camera attached to it that allows doctors to view your digestive tract on a monitor.
There are different types of endoscopies, depending on where the camera is inserted. In an upper endoscopy, the tube goes into the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus. From there, doctors get a good view of the esophagus, stomach and upper part of the small intestine.
If the endoscope enters the body through the rectum, the procedure is called a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy, depending on how far up the colon (large intestine) is examined.
Endoscopies can also be used to conduct biopsies or to place objects into the body to help treat medical issues.
Why Do Infections Occur After Endoscopies?
Several studies have concluded that current cleaning methods and guidelines do not effectively sterilize the endoscopes used for the procedure.
One particular study examined a number of cleaned endoscopes from three hospitals in the United States. It found that 71 percent still contained microbial growth, and 22 percent of endoscopes had signs of organic contamination. Two of the hospitals were found to be practicing substandard reprocessing and drying methods.
There are three levels of medical equipment that require different forms of cleaning, ranging from noncritical to critical. Noncritical devices like stethoscopes require low-level disinfection, while critical devices require sterilization. Endoscopes fall into the semi-critical category, where high-level disinfection is required but not sterilization.
How Common is an Infection?
It was thought that the risk of infection after an endoscopy was around one in one million cases. However, a study released in 2018 by Johns Hopkins University found that number to be up to 100 times higher. The rates are around one in one thousand for a screening colonoscopy. That number rises to around 45 in one thousand for people who were hospitalized within 30 days prior to their endoscopic procedure.
What are the Signs of an Infection from an Endoscopy?
The following symptoms are signs of a general complication from an endoscopic procedure:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody, black or very dark-colored stool
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe or persistent abdominal pain
- Vomiting (especially if the vomit is bloody or looks like coffee grounds)
Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if any of these symptoms occur.
Most infections are treated with antibiotics and will resolve on their own. However, there is a risk of contracting a “superbug” infection, especially in those with weakened immune systems. These infections can have severe complications and can even lead to death.
What Are My Options?
While the FDA is releasing more rigorous guidelines for cleaning these devices, faulty practices can leave medical facilities and healthcare professionals open to medical malpractice cases.
When you go to a hospital or other medical facility for a procedure, it’s supposed to make you better or lead to better health, not make you sick or worse.
If you had an experience where an endoscopic procedure left you with a serious infection, you need to contact an attorney to see if a medical malpractice suit is an option for you. Stewart & Stewart is the home of the best medical malpractice attorneys in the state of Indiana, and they will be happy to discuss your situation with you and let you know if you have a case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you – call 1-800-33-33-LAW or visit our website for more information.