Sterile Processing Errors Earns Spot on ECRI Top Health Technology Hazards List

ECRI cover.jpg

ECRI Institute has issued its annual list of the top 10 health technology hazards, and sterile processing errors in some ambulatory settings, including medical and dental offices, comes in at #3.

As ECRI notes in a news release, the challenge associated with sterile processing concerns the "failure to consistently and effectively sterilize contaminated items can lead to patient infections."

An executive brief for the "Top 10 Health Technology Hazards for 2020" report elaborates, stating the following: "Insufficient attention to sterilization processes in medical offices, dental offices and some other ambulatory care settings can expose patients to contaminated instruments, implants or other critical items. … failure to consistently and effectively clean and disinfect or sterilize contaminated items before use can expose patients to virulent pathogens. This concern exists in all healthcare settings where patients may come in contact with contaminated items, particularly those intended to enter sterile tissue or the vascular system."

ECRI also highlighted the infection risks associated with the #4 hazard on the list: central venous catheter (CVC) risk in at-home hemodialysis. ECRI notes that the risks associated with CVCs can be particularly dangerous in the home setting because family members may lack the ability to effectively manage such risks. The executive brief states, "CVCs are typically placed through the jugular vein (or other large central vein), providing a pathway directly from the outside of the body to the patient’s heart. As a result, the conse­quences of infection, clotting, disconnection and air embolism can be severe."

The hazards taking the top spots on the 2020 list are surgical stapler misuse (#1) and point-of-care ultrasound (#2).

The 2019 top hazards list included mattresses remaining contaminated after cleaning, retained surgical sponges and recontamination of endoscopes after disinfection.