(The Best Years in Life)
Since the death of noted entertainer
Joan Rivers a year ago, the routine use
of endoscopes has come under increased
scrutiny. Now evidence has surfaced that
contaminated endoscopes are behind many
hospital outbreaks of antibiotic
resistant ‘superbugs’, and the FDA has
known about it for years and done
nothing. Some of these outbreaks have
killed dozens and made hundreds of
The use of endoscopes has become the first
diagnostic choice by a medical establishment that has literally lost touch with
its patients and now relies almost exclusively on technology. Endoscopes are
medical devices used to examine everything from the throat down to the colon,
making the hands-on examination of the patient obsolete. Very similar devices
are used for the popular colonoscopy, suggesting that these too are often highly
contaminated with biological debris.
The design of these instruments makes them
difficult to clean. Tiny crevices can trap matter that is not released during
cleaning or exposed to disinfectant, putting the next patient on whom they are
used at risk, even when manufacturers cleaning instructions are followed to the
letter. These are the instructions presented to and approved by the FDA during
the approval process.
Endoscopy use may be a death sentence for the
Superbugs are pathogenic microorganisms, most
often bacterium, that have developed resistance to the medications normally used
against them. Therefore, there is little or nothing to stop them once they get
One such superbug is particularly troubling
because it is known to be spread directly by unclean endoscopes. It is known as
CRE, (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), and its kill rate is over 40
percent. So far there have been four major outbreaks of CRE in hospitals in the
U.S. Other outcomes from contaminated endoscopes include hepatitis B and C, and
The Alliance for Natural Health USA recently
reported that during an outbreak in Florida in 2009,
experts from the CDC together with other epidemiologists warned the FDA that the
problem was likely not limited to Florida, and action should be taken to warn
hospitals of the danger. Only months later did the FDA issue any warning
whatsoever – a measly two sentences buried in the fifty-seventh paragraph in a
general advisory on the proper cleaning of medical scopes!”
In the Florida outbreak, 15 patients were killed
and dozens were sickened. It was not until earlier this year that the FDA issued
a warning with some meat on its bone. Still, the producers of endoscopes do not
have to redesign their products or change their cleaning procedures, the warning
being just a heads-up to let patients know what they may be getting into.
There’s more to think about than superbugs
when you consent to endoscopy
Joan Rivers was undoubtedly able to recruit the
best medical talent available, yet she died of something other than superbugs
during a routine endoscopic procedure to assess her throat and vocal chords.
This suggests that endoscopic procedures in general are not as safe as they have
been advertised to be.
Risks that should be considered but are not
always explained to the patient ahead of time include bleeding, perforation,
infection, reaction to sedatives and complications from heart and lung disease.
Researchers are finding that gastrointestinal
(GI) endoscopy during which a doctor examines a patient’s digestive tract with
an endoscope, may be more common than we know. They are recommending changes to
current reporting processes to make sure emergency department visits and
unexpected hospital admissions following endoscopic procedures be investigated.
Dr. Daniel A. Leffler and his collegues from
Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have concluded that complications from
endoscopy of the GI could be three times or more than is currently reported.
During their study, they found that 419 emergency department visits and 266
hospitalizations occurred within 14 days of having a procedure involving an
endoscope. This compares to a total of only 31 complications recorded through
It may be a good idea to forego any medical
fishing expeditions involving endoscopes. Save such procedures for use only when
there is truly no other choice.
Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.
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