The importance of properly reprocessing laryngoscope blades (and handles) to the prevention of disease transmission cannot be overstated. Nor, too, can the proper reprocessing of other reusable, potentially contaminated “semi-critical” devices be over-emphasized.

Consider the following report of a different, but similar type of reusable device – a reusable laryngeal mask airway (LMA) device – whose ineffective reprocessing, namely, low-level disinfection, recently resulted in the notification of 307 patients of the risk of exposure to such infectious agents as HIV. Read: “Hospital offers free testing to 307 former patients” Also read this link from Public Citizen.

Briefly, LMAs are “semi-critical” devices that require, at a minimum, high-level disinfection. But, because of the materials used in the construction of these devices, the manufacturers of some LMAs may require steam sterilization (not high-level disinfection, which ordinarily would be acceptable of such types of semi-critical devices), as much for infection-control reasons as for materials’ compatibility concerns (e.g., the absorption by the LMA’s materials of germicides and disinfectants during reprocessing, resulting in potential patient injury).

Click here to read Dr. Muscarella’s article

Recommendations:  (1) Among others, review your policies and procedures to ensure their consistency with the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the reusable LMA devices used by your facility. (2) Audit staff members periodically to ensure their reprocessing practices do not contravene these instructions. (3) If during these audits and reviews, quality deviations are identified, employ validated corrective (and preventative) actions, such as focused training, that have been themselves monitored and demonstrated to be effective.

(Note: In some states, including Pennsylvania, laws require that patients be notified of such reprocessing breaches, even if disease transmission was not documented and patients were not necessarily injured. Such events may be referred to as “near misses.”

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