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Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Sep;101(9):2147-54.

Inconsistencies in endoscope-reprocessing and infection-control guidelines: the importance of endoscope drying.

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Custom Ultrasonics, Inc., Ivyland, Pennsylvania 18974, USA.



Endoscope reprocessing is a multi-stepped process that renders a contaminated endoscope safe for reuse. Its steps include meticulous cleaning, complete immersion in a liquid chemical sterilant (LCS) or disinfectant to achieve high-level disinfection (or "liquid sterilization"), water rinsing, and proper handling and storage. Surveys and reports indicate that not all health-care facilities dry their endoscopes after reprocessing. Endoscope drying can be easily, quickly, and inexpensively achieved by flushing the endoscope's internal channels, and wiping its external surfaces, with 70-90% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, to facilitate drying after reprocessing, followed by compressed or forced air.


The medical literature was reviewed to evaluate the importance of endoscope drying to the prevention of disease transmission. Several national and international endoscope-reprocessing and infection-control guidelines and a public health advisory were also reviewed and compared for consistency and to evaluate the emphasis each places on endoscope drying. If a guideline recommends endoscope drying, this study clarified whether this step is recommended after reprocessing throughout the day (i.e., between patient procedures), before storage, or both. These guidelines were also reviewed to determine whether any of them recommend reprocessing endoscopes before the first patient of the day.


This review identified several published reports and clinical studies that demonstrate the significant contribution of endoscope drying to the prevention of disease transmission. This review also identified significant differences and inconsistencies regarding the emphasis different published guidelines and a public health advisory place on endoscope drying. Some guidelines recommend drying the endoscope after completion of every reprocessing cycle, both throughout the day and before storage, while others deemphasize its importance and recommend endoscope drying only before storage, if at all. Instead of recommending endoscope drying before storage, some guidelines recommend reprocessing endoscopes before the first patient of the day.


The finding that several guidelines are inconsistent with one another and that some are remiss and fail to recommend endoscope drying is of concern. Endoscope drying is as important to the prevention of nosocomial infection as cleaning and high-level disinfection (or "liquid sterilization"). Whereas wet or inadequately dried endoscopes pose an increased risk of contamination and have been associated with transmission of waterborne microorganisms and nosocomial infection, thoroughly dried (and properly cleaned and high-level disinfected) endoscopes have not been linked to nosocomial infection. Moreover, inconsistent guidelines can confuse reprocessing staff members and result in noncompliance, variations in the standard of care, and ineffective reprocessing. To minimize the risk of disease transmission and nosocomial infection, modification and revision of guidelines are recommended as required to be consistent with one another and to unconditionally recommend endoscope drying after completion of every reprocessing cycle, both between patient procedures and before storage, no matter the label claim of the LCS or disinfectant, the label claim of the automated reprocessing system, or the microbial quality of the rinse water. According to the medical literature, adoption of this recommendation may reduce the importance of not only monitoring the microbial quality of the rinse water, but also reprocessing endoscopes before the first patient of the day, both of which can be costly practices that a few guidelines recommend.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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