ATLANTA – The risk of infection from flexible endoscopes is far greater than generally believed, despite the excessive use of prophylactic antimicrobials in patients undergoing endoscopy, recent studies show.
Many gastroenterologists and guidelines from professional organizations use a reference point of “less than one per million” regarding the risk of infection from scopes, but a Johns Hopkins University study of more than 2.3 million patients in 6 states showed that the infection risk with colonoscopy is about 1 per 1,000, the risk for upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is about 3 per 1,000, and the risk with cystoscopy is about 4 per 1,000, Cori Ofstead said at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“For bronchoscopy [the infection risk] was 15.6 in 1,000, which is 1.6% – not anywhere in the 1 in a million range,” said Ms. Ofstead, president and chief executive officer of Ofstead & Associates, a St. Paul, Minn. health care research firm.
It also turns out that prophylactic antibiotics are frequently given to patients undergoing routine endoscopy procedures, she said, noting that four major associations – two gastroenterology associations and two urology associations in the United States and Europe – recommend that prophylactic antimicrobials be given with routine endoscopies for certain patients undergoing certain types of procedures.
One U.S. organization is recommending prophylactic antimicrobials for every patient undergoing ureteroscopy, she added.
A Cleveland Clinic study looking at the impact of those American Urological Association guidelines for prophylactic antimicrobials showed that in a subset of patients with negative urine cultures before ureteroscopy, 100% received the prophylaxis, and 68% were also given other antimicrobials to take home.
“So the question, of course, is how well does this work…,” Ms. Ofstead said. “They found 3%-4% infection, with the rates exactly the same – no statistically significant differences – between patients who got prophylaxis just in the hospital or who went home with prophylactic meds, and they concluded that there was no benefit to the extra take-home antimicrobials.”
Others studies in multiple countries show either no impact or only minor impact of this prophylaxis on infection rates, and yet all show infection rates after endoscopy that are not one in a million, but in “the percentage point range,” she said.
“As we move toward more of these minimally invasive procedures, we need to be aware that we’re using extremely complex instruments that are very difficult to clean and disinfect or sterilize,” she said, adding that “in the field we’re seeing that improper reprocessing is actually business as usual.”
Infections have been seen with all kinds of scopes, Ms. Ofstead noted.
“The potential for this becoming a bit of a monster is enhanced by the widespread use of prophylactic antimicrobials during endoscopy, and I’m also troubled by the quick reaction of giving people antimicrobials when they have a positive culture from a scope rather than making sure the scope is clean,” she said, explaining that while most scopes have microbes and patients could be getting infections, they also may be reacting to soil and endotoxins in the scope rather than microbes.
“In any case, to reduce risks there are a number of things people can do,” she said. When using reusable scopes, proper cleaning is essential. “I think we should be moving toward scopes that can be disassembled so we can see inside and get those channels clean,” adding that efforts should also be made to move toward single-use scopes.
“Particularly in these outbreak situations where we’re using bronchoscopy on multiple patients, there’s just no excuse for reusing bronchoscopes and not sterilizing them between uses and making darn sure that they’re not full of whatever our outbreak pathogen is,” Ms. Ofstead said. “And lastly, I’m hoping that some folks here can talk some sense into people at the professional associations who are recommending prophylactic antimicrobial use, because if we don’t get some stewardship going, we’re going to be in big trouble.”
The guidelines create a conundrum for doctors who are torn between that stewardship and a failure to follow the recommendations.
“Their professional organization is telling them to give prophylactic antimicrobials. If they don’t do it and a patients gets an infection, that’s a malpractice issue. So we’ve got to go through those associations and get them to stop recommending prophylactic antimicrobials when there is no evidence of their effectiveness,” she said.
Ms. Ofstead has been a consultant for 3M Company, Ambu, Auris, Boston Scientific, Cogentix, Convergascent, Healthmark, Invendo Medical, Nanosonics, and Advanced Sterilization Products, and has received grant/research support from 3M Company, Advanced Sterilization Products, Ambu, Boston Scientific, Cogentix, Healthmark, Invendo Medical, Medivators, and Steris.
SOURCE: Ofstead C., ICEID 2018 Presentation.