The Dangers of Endoscope Bacterial Infections in the USA

by Terry Bryant

What is an Endoscopy Examination?

An endoscopy is a procedure that a doctor uses to see inside the esophagus (throat), the stomach, and the upper section of the small intestine. The medical tool that is used is called an endoscope, and it is made up of a camera mounted on a thin, bendable scope that is flexible enough to slide down the throat and take pictures of the parts that need to be examined. The doctor can record images and see the areas on a television screen. There is some general concern that a patient can fall victim to endoscope bacterial infections from the treatment.

The procedure is often used to diagnose various health problems. The danger of endoscope bacterial infections is from the use of contaminated endoscopes. The endoscopes can become sullied from blood, other body fluids, or bacteria during routine use. After use, they must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The problem is that due to how they are constructed, it is hard to get them 100% clean. Sensitive scopes may break down from intense heat. Bacteria can form on the inside surfaces, and as a result, infections related to endoscope use can be spread from person to person. There are two basic types of contamination. One is a scope contaminated by a prior patient, and the other is contamination from a patient’s own bacteria.

What Are Endoscope Bacterial Infections, and Why Are They So Dangerous?

That is the question on many people’s minds who have received the examination. The headlines that have captured everyone’s attention are about a ‘super bug,’ called CRE, that is resistant to drugs and other treatments. These types of endoscope bacterial infections are hard for doctors to manage and, in some cases, lead to death. Some of the symptoms of having the ‘superbug’ vary from person to person. After an endoscope procedure it is wise to be on the lookout for the following:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swelling or Soreness
  • Under the Skin Sores That Don’t Heal
  • Lethargy

There are very few antibiotics that can cure a CRE infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death rate from CRE might be as high as 50%. This is the reason CRE has earned the reputation of a “killer bacteria.”

The Case of Antonia Cerda

The Estate of Antonia Cerda, a 48-year-old wife and mother, has sued Olympus Corp. of the Americas, a leading endoscope manufacturer in Los Angeles, for wrongful death. Allegedly, high-level executives at Olympus chose not to warn hospitals in the U.S. about the “superbug” infection that occurred from using their scopes. Mrs. Cerda became ill and eventually passed away from an endoscope bacterial infection from a contaminated endoscope. The suit also accuses Olympus of negligence for selling a “defective” scope and presenting it as safe to use. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the design of the Olympus scope is such that endoscope bacterial infections may remain even after being cleaned according to Olympus’s exact specifications. This puts each patient receiving an examination at risk. The FDA said that Olympus failed to prove that the scope could be thoroughly cleaned. Mrs. Cerda is survived by her spouse and four children.

If Infected, It Is Important to Get Help

The Senate Health Committee released a report in January 2016 stating that Olympus knew their scopes could transmit infection as far back as 2012 but failed or chose not to warn the FDA, physicians, and hospitals until three years later. During that time, hundreds of patients became infected. On January 15, 2016, Olympus recalled the scopes in question for a redesign, hopefully lowering the risk of infections.

Anyone who has had an endoscopic examination before January 15, 2016, should be aware of associated symptoms and consult a doctor for any questions. For any individual that may have been injured, or has a family member that has died, it is recommended to consult with an attorney. An attorney can steer a victim through challenging and traumatic times, and help seek financial compensation to assist with medical bills, lost income, and more.