On June 22nd, 2017, a Maryland medical facility issued a warning to patients that an endoscope used for colonoscopies was possibly contaminated. At least 23 patients are believed to be potentially affected. The Kaiser Permanente facility in Largo insists that proper sanitizing protocols were followed, but that a defect in the scope itself opens up the possibility for cross-contamination.
Infections from colonoscopies are a major problem. In the past, it has been demonstrated that 15 percent of endoscopes retain biological matter from previous patients, even after sterilization. Transmission of infections is very possible in the case of a contaminated scope and can include dangerous diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV.
The risk of transmission is even higher if polyps are discovered during the procedure, as many doctors will choose to remove the polyps. This causes bleeding, which increases the likelihood of blood-borne diseases such as HIV being transmitted. Other infections, such as Staph, become significantly more dangerous when presented with simple access to the patient’s bloodstream through an open wound.
Proper sterilization of endoscopes is extremely important but is not always taken seriously, especially at colonoscopy “mills” where a doctor performs dozens of the procedures each day. Often, patients don’t know their health was put at risk until they contract a disease, or until another patient does and the medical provider is required to notify other people who might have been exposed.
It’s still unknown who was at fault at Kaiser Permanente. It’s possible the scope was indeed faulty, at which point the manufacturer must be held accountable. It’s also possible that corners were cut sterilizing the device. If you became ill after a colonoscopy, determining whether or not your disease could have been caused by bad practices by your medical provider is important. Contact an experienced attorney to evaluate your case.