Apr 7, 2022 | Scope Tracking

Help Prevent Postoperative Infections with an Endoscope Tracking System

According to the latest estimates from Becker’s GI & Endoscopy and the peer-reviewed medical journal Gut, more than 15 million colonoscopies and 75 million endoscopies are performed each year in the U.S. The number of procedures that rely on flexible endoscopes continues to grow due to two main factors:

  1. The increasing number of gastrointestinal-related diagnoses, which account for 68% of all endoscopies in the U.S.
  2. A growing number of minimally invasive surgeries that are now possible

While procedures that make use of a flexible endoscope are generally considered safe, they do run the risk of a patient developing a postoperative infection. These infections are rare, but when they do appear, they are commonly associated with improper endoscope reprocessing techniques that leave endoscopes susceptible to microorganisms, viruses and body fluids from past procedures.

Despite their rarity, there is concern that postoperative infections following scope-related procedures might be more common than previously thought. A 2018 study published in Gut found that more than one in 1,000 patients developed an infection in the week following a screening or non-screening colonoscopy at a U.S. ambulatory surgery center. The postoperative infection rate for upper GI endoscopies was more than three in 1,000.

In patients who had been hospitalized 30 days before their screening colonoscopy or upper GI endoscopy, infection rates increased to nearly 45 in 1,000 and more than 59 in 1,000 patients respectively. Prior estimates pegged the average infection rate closer to one in a million.

Many infectious outbreaks go unrecognized or unreported, which may be because the patient was asymptomatic or didn’t associate the infection with their procedure.

For these reasons, endoscopes need to be comprehensively tracked through every stage in the reprocessing loop to ensure proper decontamination, maintenance and documentation – all of which are required for patient safety. This process is most easily managed with an endoscope tracking system.

Here, we’ll take a look into some of the features that endoscope tracking systems offer and how they can help keep your facility free of postoperative infections following scope procedures.

Endoscope tracking system capabilities

As the name implies, endoscope tracking systems track each endoscope and its accessories through the entire flexible endoscope reprocessing cycle, from bedside to storage. This allows health care facilities to keep tabs on each endoscope’s age, maintenance record, usability, sterile processing history and the procedures in which it was used.

With real-time access to this information, infection prevention is easier than ever, as it’s much more difficult to miss a step in the process.

Unparalleled accuracy

Endoscopes are difficult to clean due to their length, internal channels and increasingly complex designs. This makes it challenging for sterile processing technicians to make sure they’re hitting all the reprocessing steps that are included in the manufacturer’s instructions for use (IFU) and additional cleaning requirements developed by their facility.

Endoscope tracking systems allow facilities to customize proper reprocessing steps by building them into the system. This creates a checklist of steps, each of which must be completed before the system allows the sterile processing technician to move on to the next.

By creating a clear guide to follow, endoscope tracking systems reduce the chances of missing a critical cleaning step and other human errors.

Assured scope maintenance

Some endoscope types require regular maintenance to keep them suitable for use. This could include testing them for leaks or inspecting them for faults.

Endoscope tracking systems alert sterile processing departments (SPDs) automatically when an endoscope is due for maintenance, helping to maintain the integrity of the instrument and the manufacturer’s guidelines for use. To maintain compliance, these systems also alert SPD teams when endoscopes are expiring or have expired.

Enhanced analytics

The most advanced endoscope tracking systems are capable of interfacing directly with automated endoscope reprocessors, which often track data such as the temperature reached by the reprocessor for each endoscope and the efficacy of the disinfecting solutions used. When this data is combined with the on-demand reporting available through endoscope tracking systems, it provides greater visibility into each instrument’s past, ensuring all cleaning steps were not only completed but also effective.

Improved documentation

While the goal is to prevent infections altogether, endoscope tracking systems are also invaluable when risk of exposure to an infectious disease does occur. Because each endoscope can be tracked back to the patients on which it was used, health care facilities can easily identify which patients may have been exposed to compromised instruments and notify them. If a staff member becomes infected, it can also aid in tracing back to when and why the exposure may have occurred.

In the case of such infections, facilities have all the documented steps at their fingertips to assist with an investigation. Having proof that all the proper cleaning steps were performed can also be helpful in the case of a lawsuit.

How ScopeTrac Advanced can help

With the release of ScopeTrac in 2010, Censis offered immediate access to instructions for handling and cleaning flexible endoscopes in the reprocessing loop. ScopeTrac Advanced provides all the capabilities listed above plus:

Learn more about ScopeTrac Advanced, or explore our website for other solutions, including surgical instrument tracking software, surgical asset marking and loaner tray management systems.