A new review has found that as many as 350 people have been sickened by life-threatening infections linked to contaminated medical scopes between 2010 and 2015. The review found that 30 hospitals in the United States and 11 other hospitals around the world reported 404 bacterial infections and 44 more potential exposures linked to the scopes. Regulators say that these device reports “likely contain duplicate patient reporting,” reducing the number of affected patients somewhat. However, other sources say that those figures likely underestimate the problem since hospitals don’t always test patients for the antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that cause such infections.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform obtained the updated figures from the Food and Drug Administration under a year-long investigation into “superbug” outbreaks tied to the devices. In 2015, several high-profile outbreaks at hospitals in Los Angeles and Seattle were linked to duodenoscopes. Superbug outbreaks at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles were linked to several patient deaths and multiple infections.
The devices in those cases were made by Olympus Corp., a Japanese manufacturer which dominates the U.S. market. Duodenoscopes feature a mechanized tip with moveable instruments used to drain blockages and perform other procedures. The scope infections occurred during a procedure known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP. Nationally, more than 650,000 ERCP procedures are performed each year.
Olympus had redesigned its duodenoscope in 2010 in a way that makes them extremely difficult to clean, even with mechanical processing equipment. Experts found that bodily fluids and other debris could remain in the device’s joints and crevices even after cleaning and disinfection. Officials at the hospitals said they had followed the manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning the devices. An FDA warning went out in February 2015 urging all hospitals to review their cleaning procedures for these reusable scopes and consider additional steps to minimize the infection risk.
Now that it has been uncovered that the contaminated medical scopes may be linked to more infections than previously estimated by federal regulators, the number of personal injury lawsuits filed over these infections may rise. If you believe that you have been harmed due to contaminated medical scopes, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a personal injury attorney and give them the facts of your case, and they will help you determine the best course of action for you going forward.