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Human matter found on reusable medical tools in a Texas hospital

Human matter found on reusable medical tools in a Texas hospital

Many health care organizations across the country employ reusable medical tools when treating patients. The tools, typically made of metal, are used on a patient during a procedure before undergoing a process of disinfection. Once clean, the tools are reused on patients and the cycle is repeated. While this approach has been used for many years, a number of recent studies have indicated that disinfection procedures are likely ineffective at completely killing certain viruses, as well as entirely removing body matter, such as traces of skin, blood and saliva. 

Indeed, a literature review from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists examined several studies, which have pointed to the ineffectiveness of traditional sterilization techniques in hospitals. The studies found that, on laryngoscope blades, sterilization was unable to completely remove traces of blood and saliva. This is problematic as the presence of bodily fluids on supposedly clean instruments places patients at risk of contracting viruses, such as hepatitis and HPV, as well as various kinds of bacteria. 

There have been several recent news stories of reusable instruments in hospital operating rooms being found to have human matter still on them after disinfection. A recent case occurred in San Antonio, Texas, back in April. Read on to learn more. 

Contaminated tools found at Brooke Army Hospital
According to CBS 4 Local, reporting on a widely cited story from the San Antonio Express-News, officials from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, a flagship branch of the army health system, found 16 reusable instruments that still had signs of blood, bone and skin on them after cleaning. Furthermore, the hospital found that a total of 73 of their tools had been sterilized to an unsatisfactory standard, placing countless patients at risk of cross-contamination.

It is uncertain if the slip in standards led to any instances of cross-contamination. The source noted that representatives from the health care facility have refused to confirm or deny the fact. Brooke Army Hospital physician, Col. Douglas Soderdahl, however, did explain in a quote that care at the facility remains at a consistently high standards, and that there are no signs to indicate a surge in contamination that could be blamed on the infected tools.

The discovery had a knock-on effect on patients in terms of canceled surgeries. The hospital was forced to close 28 of its operating rooms, CBS 4 Local explained, meaning that a number of non-essential surgical procedures had to be delayed or canceled. The closures took place on account of the fact that, once the dirty instruments were disposed of, there were no longer enough tools in the facility to perform all of the scheduled procedures. 

The affected facility is in San Antonio, Texas.The affected facility is in San Antonio, Texas.

Another notable case of improper sterilization
As mentioned, the incident at Brooke Army Hospital is by no means the only case in which improperly sterilized reusable tools have been found. According to a report from WEAU News, in December, 2016 it came to light that a number of veterans who received dental care at Tomah VA in Wisconsin had potentially been exposed to several viruses thanks to tools that had undergone ineffective sterilization. The veterans impacted, around 600 total, were informed that there was a small risk that they have contracted HIV and two strands of Hepatitis – B and C. The hospital offered free testing to the affected individuals. 

Reusable devices are the solution
The best way for health care organizations to avoid the risk of improperly cleaned tools and subsequent threat of cross-contamination is to discontinue the utilization of reusable medical instruments. Single-use instruments should be used instead. Single-use tools are as they sound – they are designed to be used one time only, on one patient, before being safely disposed of. This approach is considerably safer, as the threat of cross-contamination with chronic illnesses such as HIV, Hepatitis and HPV, which can cause the development of certain types of cancer, is eliminated.

Consider OBP Medical
OBP Medical has a range of single-use medical tools, from speculums to laryngoscopes and surgical retractors. All OBP tools are ready and easy to use, well designed, and carry a safe light source that poses no threat after disposal. To learn more about OBP Medical tools and to request free samples, visit the website

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