Endoscopy 2007; 39(9): 825-830
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-966766
Original article

© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Challenging endoscopy reprocessing guidelines: a prospective study investigating the safe shelf life of flexible endoscopes in a tertiary gastroenterology unit

S.  Osborne1, 2 , S.  Reynolds2 , N.  George2, 3, 4 , F.  Lindemayer2 , A.  Gill2 , M.  Chalmers2
  • 1School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • 2Centre for Clinical Nursing, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • 3Queensland Pathology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • 4Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Further Information

Publication History

submitted 11 August 2006

accepted after revision 13 June 2007

Publication Date:
17 August 2007 (online)

Background and study aims: Professional practice guidelines for endoscope reprocessing recommend reprocessing endoscopes between each case and proper storage following reprocessing after the last case of the list. There is limited empirical evidence to support the efficacy of endoscope reprocessing prior to use in the first case of the day; however, internationally, many guidelines continue to recommend this practice. The aim of this study is to estimate a safe shelf life for flexible endoscopes in a high-turnover gastroenterology unit.

Materials and methods: In a prospective observational study, all flexible endoscopes in active service during the 3-week study period were microbiologically sampled prior to reprocessing before the first case of the day (n = 200). The main outcome variables were culture status, organism cultured, and shelf life.

Results: Among the total number of useable samples (n = 194), the overall contamination rate was 15.5 %, with a pathogenic contamination rate of 0.5 %. Mean time between last case one day and reprocessing before the first case on the next day (that is, shelf life) was 37.62 h (SD 36.47). Median shelf life was 18.8 h (range 5.27 - 165.35 h). The most frequently identified organism was coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, an environmental nonpathogenic organism.

Conclusions: When processed according to established guidelines, flexible endoscopes remain free from pathogenic organisms between last case and next day first case use. Significant reductions in the expenditure of time and resources on reprocessing endoscopes have the potential to reduce the restraints experienced by high-turnover endoscopy units and improve service delivery.


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S. Osborne

Queensland University of Technology
School of Nursing, N Block (N505)

Victoria Park Road
Kelvin Grove
Australia 4059

Fax: +61-7-31383814

Email: s.osborne@qut.edu.au