Study uncovers gap in widely accepted practice for safe endoscope drying

A recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that the practice of drying an endoscope for just 10 minutes prior to putting it into storage does not produce a dry, patient-ready endoscope. Drying is an essential part of endoscope reprocessing, and this study challenges the current industry standards around drying procedures. This information fundamentally shifts how healthcare facilities should approach their drying procedures. This is significant because 20 million gastrointestinal procedures are performed with an endoscope annually. 

The study, “Endoscope reprocessing: Comparison of drying effectiveness and microbial levels with an automated drying and storage cabinet with forced filtered air and a standard storage cabinet,” evaluated both dryness and microbial levels of endoscopes that had completed high-level disinfection and had been placed in an automated drying cabinet or a standard storage cabinet.

The results of the study showed the automated drying cabinet (ENDODRY Cabinet, Cantel Medical), using instrument grade air, dried the inner lumens of the endoscopes in 60 minutes and the external endoscope surfaces in three hours. The study also showed that the automated cabinet was able to store the endoscopes for up to 31 days without an increase in microbial levels. The standard cabinet showed an inability to dry the scopes at 24 hours and allowed microbial growth throughout the study.

Until this study, the accepted industry standard, supported by a widely cited study from 1991, was a minimum dry time of 10 minutes. However, the same study showed the endoscopes weren’t entirely dry after 10 minutes.

Effective drying helps preserve the patient-ready condition of an endoscope after high-level disinfection because removing moisture as soon as possible helps prevent foreign body microbial growth. Any microbes that may remain on the endoscope can proliferate in a dark, wet environment. Drying is crucial when the endoscope is going to be stored because a dry environment does not support microbial growth and can help prevent infection.

Source: Cantel Medical