Dirty Instruments Lead to Investigation of Seattle Hospital

A Seattle hospital is under investigation after hospital officials revealed that more than 100 patients were put at risk of infection because medical instruments were cleaned improperly.

A breakdown in training resulted in instruments used during colonoscopies being improperly cleaned, hospital officials said.

Scopes used during colonoscopies were found to have been cleaned improperly last November, according to a hospital statement.

Technicians used improper cleaning techniques on the scopes between July 2011 and November 2013, hospital officials said. As a result the hospital has started notifying 106 patients who were at risk of infection as a result of undergoing a colonoscopy during that time.

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"The risk of infection for patients is very low, but we don't want to take any chances," said Dr. Danielle Zerr, medical director for infection prevention at Seattle Children's Hospital. "We take this type of situation very seriously and launched an investigation as soon as we discovered the problem."

All patients at risk have been asked to come back to the hospital to be tested for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, officials said, noting that none of the patients that have come in to be tested so far have tested positive for any of these infections.

The Washington State Department of Health has launched a facilities investigation into the hospital to ensure instruments and other hospital supplies are being cleaned properly.

"We're going to look for what went wrong and what can be done and what has been done to stop it from happening again," agency spokesperson Donn Moyer told

Seattle Children's Hospital first alerted local and state authorities to the issue, even though they were not under any obligation to do so because no patient had become ill or died as a result of the oversight, Moyer said.

According to a hospital spokesperson, officials first learned something was wrong after technicians twice found "organic matter" on a scope before a scheduled colonoscopy last November. The hospital immediately launched an investigation and stopped performing the procedure. The number of patients affected was relatively small because only two scopes were affected and only certain patients were at risk, according to hospital spokeswoman Stacy Dinuzzo.

After consulting with local and state health officials, the hospital retrained its technicians to properly clean the scopes and had the scopes' manufacturer audit the cleaning process.

"Our focus, as always, is on our patients," said Dr. Zerr. "We want to assure them that this was an unfortunate and isolated event, and that we've taken all the necessary steps to ensure that it does not happen again."