On any given day in the United States, approximately one out of every 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). American hospital patients acquired an estimated 687,000 HAIs in 2015, leading to 72,000 deaths and thousands of medical malpractice lawsuits. There are many reasons why hospitals are breeding grounds for infection, including the failure or inability to properly sterilize equipment and devices that are used on multiple patients.
One such device – the duodenoscope – is now the subject of significant scrutiny for its propensity to lead to potentially fatal infections. As recently reported in the New York Times, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other experts are calling for the development of disposable models to replace the reusable ones that currently dominate the market.
Duodenoscopes are long fiber-optic instruments that physicians insert into the upper part of a patient’s small intestine through the mouth. Used in about 500,000 procedures each year in the U.S., duodenoscopes are critical for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the pancreas and bile duct.
The problem is that these devices are used over and over again but cannot be completely decontaminated after each use. Unlike other reusable medical instruments, duodenoscopes cannot be sterilized with steam cleaning and are instead cleaned by hand before being put in a dishwasher-like machine containing disinfecting chemicals.
FDA-ordered testing revealed that one in 20 duodenoscopes harbored disease-causing microbes like E. coli even after cleaning and sterilization through this process. These bacteria then become transmitted from patient to patient, and hundreds become sick every year as a result.
The FDA and experts are encouraging device manufacturers to accelerate the development of disposable, single-use duodenoscopes and their component parts, and recommend that hospitals implement transition plans to prepare for the replacement of traditional duodenoscopes.
In the meantime, however, doctors emphasize that risk of infection is relatively low and that patients should not put off any scheduled procedures without first discussing the risks and benefits of doing so with their physicians.
Speak With a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one developed an infection after surgery, a diagnostic procedure, or a hospital stay and experienced additional health problems as a result, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The medical malpractice lawyers of Sommers Schwartz can thoroughly investigate the situation, uncover the truth, and pursue compensation for your losses.
Please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group for a free consultation to review your case.