Ensuring the Safety of Your Endoscopic Procedure

-This information was developed by the Publications Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). For more information about ASGE, visit www.asge.org.

-This information is intended only to provide general guidance. It does not provide definitive medical advice. It is important that you consult your doctor about your specific condition.

The Benefits of Endoscopy

Endoscopy involves the use of flexible tubes, known as endoscopes, to provide a close-up, color television view of the inside of the digestive tract. Upper endoscopes are passed through the mouth to visualize the esophagus (food pipe), stomach, and duodenum (first portion of the small intestine), while lower endoscopes (colonoscopes) are passed through the rectum to view the colon or large intestine. Other special endoscopes allow physicians to view portions of the pancreas, liver and gallbladder as well.

Endoscopy has been a major advance in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. For example, the use of endoscopes allows the detection of ulcers, cancers, polyps and
sites of internal bleeding. Through endoscopy, tissue samples (biopsies) may be obtained, areas of blockage can be opened, and active bleeding can be stopped. Polyps in the colon can be removed, which has been shown to prevent colon cancer.

Endoscopy is easily carried out on an outpatient basis and is very well tolerated by patients. The technique of endoscopy is extremely safe, with very low rates of complications, when performed by a properly trained endoscopist, such as members of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).

Endoscopy of both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts is a mainstay of digestive disease treatment plans and health maintenance strategies. Endoscopic procedures already have a remarkable safety record and manufacturers are continually improving the design of endoscopic devices to further ensure patient safety.

Effectiveness of the Reprocessing Guidelines

The dissemination and implementation of the guidelines for endoscope reprocessing (cleaning and disinfecting) outlined here have resulted in a remarkable safety record for endoscopy. Based on medical literature, the Technology Committee of the ASGE estimates that the chance that a serious infection could be transmitted by endoscopy is only about 1 in 1.8 million. Given the multiple benefits of endoscopy, it is no wonder that the number of procedures performed grows each year and that endoscopy is a mainstay of digestive disease treatment plans and health maintenance strategies. Endoscope manufacturers are continually improving the design of endoscopes to ensure patient safety.

Quality Assurance and Training

Any facility in which gastrointestinal endoscopy is performed must have an effective quality assurance program in place to ensure that endoscopes are reprocessed properly. Quality assurance programs for endoscopy must include the supervision, training, and annual competency review of all staff involved in the process, systems that assure availability of appropriate equipment and supplies at all times, and strict procedures for reporting possible problems.

Availability of Reprocessing Guidelines

The ASGE guidelines for infection control during gastrointestinal endoscopy provide the latest techniques and step-by-step directions on the proper procedure for cleaning and disinfecting endoscopes. These are distributed to all members of ASGE and are regularly reviewed and updated. They are also easily accessed on the ASGE Web site (www.asge.org) or by calling or writing ASGE.