Scope Cleaning

Scope Cleaning
Scope cleaning

Many health-conscious adults believe in prevention. They try to eat right and exercise regularly. They faithfully show up for their Pap smears, mammograms, cholesterol tests, blood pressure checks, and prostate exams - but often find an excuse to put off recommended screening exams to prevent colorectal cancer. Over the years, we have found many patients with colon cancer in our community. Almost always they have never had a prior colon checkup.

Some feel that if they have no symptoms and no family history of colon cancer they are safe. The truth is that colon cancer is a very common disease and we are all at risk. About 75 percent of cases occur in people with no family history of colon cancer and no warning symptoms. To prevent colon cancer, you must see your doctor when you feel well. Current recommendations are for all adults to have periodic endoscopic, or "scope" examinations of their colon. The two most common scope tests are flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.

However, some individuals worry about disease transmission from poorly sterilized equipment. This fear certainly could deter one from have such an examination. It has recently been reported that some doctor's offices and busy clinics do not have the necessary personnel, time, or proper equipment to assure that each instrument is cleaned properly. That is exactly why it is best to have such an examination performed in a specialized unit such as Three Rivers Endoscopy Center where adequate safeguards are in place.

    Written Guidelines
    We have researched the technology of instrument sterilization extensively and have used recommendations from nationally and internationally known organizations to plan our policies for scope reprocessing. In 1996, these organizations issued joint specifications for safe sterilization of scopes. We have chosen our scope cleaning methods, disinfection solutions, and sterilization techniques following their expert recommendations.

    Automated Scope Washer
    We have chosen the Custom Ultrasonics Scope Reprocessing System. This $60,000 automated system is computer monitored for safety. The full sterilization cycle must run its course and can not be interrupted. The entire sterilization process is documented by computer printout for each patient and an emergency generator is online so the cycle is never interrupted in the event of a power failure.

    Adequate Number of Scopes
    At a cost of about $20,000 each, it is understandable that a smaller facility may not have many scopes available. As a dedicated center of excellence, Three Rivers Endoscopy Center has a full complement of scopes so that there is never a temptation to rush the cleaning process for the next patient's procedure. All instruments undergo periodic maintenance examinations by a certified service facility. An adequate number of these state-of-the-art instruments assures our patients a safe examination. Dedicated Cleaning Staff Three Rivers Endoscopy Center has a dedicated scope reprocessing room which is staffed by three endoscopy technicians specially trained in the sterilization process. In addition to new employee training, all of these employees must undergo periodic retraining and competency testing to be sure that all scopes are cleaned thoroughly and safely.

    Infection Control Committee
    Three Rivers Endoscopy Center has an Infection Control committee headed by Dr. Richard Kim, who also has a Masters in Public Health, and Marsha Zaleski, RN who has 13 years of experience as an endoscopy nurse specialist. This committee enforces all the Infection Control and Safety policies. Our IC committee keeps current on all issues regarding scope reprocessing and reports quarterly to our Quality Improvement committee headed by our Medical Director, Dr. Robert Fusco.

    AAAHC Accredited Facility
    Three Rivers Endoscopy Center is the only State licensed Medicare certified endoscopy facility in Western Pennsylvania. In addition to passing all of the strict criteria to meet these requirements, we have won accreditation by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), a national health care credentialing organization based in Chicago. As part of this detailed process, facility cleanliness and scope reprocessing techniques were scrutinized and passed without deficiencies. Much like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for ambulatory centers, this accreditation award demonstrates our dedication to quality.

In today's society, it makes good sense to be concerned about disease transmission. But in fact, the reported risks of getting an infection from colonoscopy are very low - about 1 chance in 1.8 million. On the other hand, your lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about 1 chance in 17. Don't let unfounded fears keep you from having such a potentially lifesaving examination. If you are over 50, ask your doctor about a colon cancer-screening program. The tests take only minutes to perform and could potentially add decades to your life.

Text & Images Courtesy of Three Rivers Endoscopy Center
© Dr. Robert Fusco, Three Rivers Endoscopy Center, All Rights Reserved

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