By Raynetta Stansil

Scopes used for minimally invasive procedures must be kept in proper working order to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients. A scope can be damaged during a procedure by the surgeon or surgical technician handling it, but the more common and preventable damage occurs during reprocessing. Since this phase is so critical to maintaining the quality of the scopes, proper training of the team that perofrms this function is critical.

Even with the proper training and care of handling scopes, wear and tear on the instruments will still occur. Any damage to these scopes can delay procedures, put patients at risk, and incur high costs to repair. Following these five tips can help facilities minimize scope damage and reduce scope repair costs:

  1. Ensure the technicians handling the scopes are well-trained in proper sterilizing and reprocessing techniques to prevent damage. 
  2. Evaluate your repair vendor for quality of the repairs, cost, and retraining resources they can provide your staff to continue their education in scope handling. 
  3. Store scopes properly. Endoscopes do not look fragile from the outside, but they have delicate interiors so placing them in padded cabinets for storage can prevent accidental bumping.
  4. Place each scope in individual trays for transport from the operating room to the sterile processing department. 
  5. Perform proper leak testing of all scopes to ensure that the scope is in working order and reduces the risk to the patient of contamination.

When evaluating your facility’s scope repair costs, obtaining data is critical to identifying a problem. Each repair cost includes both the expensive individual components as well as the expertise and time it takes to complete the complex repair. Since each of these costs can be high, the total cost of each repair and the damage that occurred needs to be carefully documented. Evaluating this data may reveal some correlations between actions taken during handling and storage and the damage that is occurring. 

Vigilance Is Key

To evaluate your facility’s repair vendor, make site visits and evaluate service offerings. Repair vendors can be the original manufacturers or other third-party repair vendors. Educational training is an essential resource your repair vendor needs to offer. The repair vendor needs to be able to provide continual on-site training to your staff. This training needs to include demonstrations on how damage can occur to each type of scope. After seeing how easily a scope can be damaged, your surgical team will better understand the need to handle each instrument with care. 

The storage and transportation of scopes also needs to be assessed. Consider using foam to line cabinets to prevent scopes from bumping as they are hung for storing. Separate trays can protect each scope as it is transported from the procedure room to the reprocessing room.

Effective leak testing can also reduce preventable damage to the scopes. At times, the tests are not long enough or air is not properly purged from the tube. Not only can these issues cause damage to the scope long-term, they also pose a risk of infection for the patient.  

When evaluating a scope for damage, the team needs to visually inspect it for cracks and fractures. Next, any components should be checked for bends, breaks, or missing parts. The cords need to be inspected as well—these can be broken or torn during transport if they are wrapped too tightly or kinked. A break or tear in the cord can prevent proper connection during the procedure and lead to further delays while a replacement is located. 

Education is a key factor to reducing scope damage and thus reducing repair costs for your facility. Every member of the surgical team who will come into contact with a scope—including nurses, surgical technicians, sterile processing technicians, and even the surgeons—needs to be educated on its proper handling and care to maintain its quality and reduce unnecessary delays for repairs.

These educational sessions should not be a one-time meeting. Continual seminars, educational materials, and webinars will provide the on-going training needed to make strides in reducing scope damage and repair costs.

Raynetta Stansil is an independent healthcare consultant and clinical educator at Surgical Solutions. Questions and comments can be directed to chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].