Deaths Tied to Reprocessed Urologic Endoscopes, FDA Warns

Jaleesa Baulkman

April 02, 2021

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning healthcare providers about the risk for potentially life-threatening infections associated with reprocessed endoscopes used for viewing the urinary tract, including cystoscopes, cystouerthroscopes, and ureteroscopes.

The federal agency is investigating more than 450 medical device reports, including three reports of deaths, received between January 1, 2017, and February 20, 2021, that describe post-procedure infections and other possible contamination problems associated with the reprocessing or cleaning and sterilization of the devices.

Although its early in the investigation, on the basis of available data, the FDA believes the risk for infection is low.

"We are very concerned about the three reported deaths — outside of the United States — associated with these infections, and we're acting fast to communicate with health care providers and the public about what we know and what is still an emerging issue," Jeff Shuren, MD, JD, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement released on April 1.

Manufacturer Olympus Corporation submitted three reports of deaths attributed to a bacterial infection. In two of those reports, the infection was linked to a forceps/irrigation plug, an accessory component used to control water flow and enable access to the working channel of the endoscope. Lab tests confirmed that the bacteria that caused the infection was present in the forceps/irrigation plug.

The FDA said the third victim's death involved a cystoscope that did not pass a leak test. It is possible that the damaged devices was a factor in the patient's becoming infected.

It's not known to what degree the reported infections or patient comorbidities played a part in the patient deaths. The FDA also hasn't concluded that any specific manufacturer or brand of these devices is associated with higher risks than others.

The FDA released recommendations for processing and using these devices and emphasized the importance of following manufacturers' labeling and reprocessing instructions to minimize the risk for infection.

In addition to following reprocessing instructions, the recommendations include not using a device that has failed a leak test, developing schedules for routine device inspection and maintenance, and discussing the potential benefits and risks associated with procedures involving reprocessed urologic endoscopes with patients.

The newly reported concerns with urologic endoscopes are similar to problems associated with reprocessed duodenoscopes. In 2018, the FDA warned about higher-than-expected contamination rates for reprocessed duodenoscopes. The FDA has taken action on infections related to the reprocessing of duodenoscopes. In 2015, it required postmarket safety studies and the updating of sampling and culturing protocols. In 2019, the FDA approved single-use duodenoscopes in an effort to curb infections.

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