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Superbug Outbreak at Lutheran General Hospital Allegedly Due to Poorly Sterilized Instruments

Poor Sterilization Can Lead to OutbreakIn 2013, the Park Ridge Advocate Lutheran General Hospital experienced a harmful superbug outbreak that affected patients at the facility. Deadly bacteria was directly associated with a device use by medical staff to treat digestive conditions. Since then, the facility implemented new protocols in sterilizing procedures to minimize the potential of further contamination of its instruments.

The harmful superbug was isolated as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, a bacteria commonly referred to as CRE. The bacterium is considered deadly because of its high resistance to the most advanced “last defense” prescription antibiotics. Since the outbreak incident in October 2013, there have been no additional cases at Lutheran General Hospital.

Chicagoland and Other Locations

The outbreak was not just isolated in the Chicagoland area. Starting in 2012, hospitals in Pittsburgh and Seattle also experienced a CRE superbug outbreak. After the deadly scare at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Park Ridge Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, the facilities began using EtO gas sterilization processes to make sure all CRE bacteria on the facilities instruments are destroyed. The new cleaning processes are thought to completely sterilize the instruments.

EtO gas is considered highly toxic. Using the gas as an effective solution for killing CRE bacteria requires specialized equipment and secured facilities. The outbreak is thought to have developed from the manual cleaning of duodenoscopes, a specialized endoscope used in digestive disorder treatment procedures. Use of the gas at Lutheran General appears to be effective, as no additional infections have occurred since technicians began implementing new cleaning protocols.

New Sterilization Procedures

The hospital, located in northwest suburban Chicago, developed new sterilization procedures to eliminate contamination of their scopes immediately following the outbreak of CRE. This is after the CRE bacteria infected 38 patients at the hospital who had previously undergone various procedures to treat bile ducts or the pancreas from the beginning of 2013.

The deadly CRE bacterium is a known to cause UTIs (urinary tract infections). However, exposure to the bacteria can become a life-threatening infection in any patients suffering other serious health issues. The risk of a deadly outcome is heightened if it spreads into the patient’s bloodstream. Nearly four out of every 10 patients suffering a CRE infection succumb to the condition.

Health investigators in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Chicago were able to link the transmitted bacterial outbreak to each facility’s scopes. Investigators from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that because of the device’s design, minimal amounts of bacteria remained in the instrument even after a thorough high-level disinfecting manual cleaning. The remaining bacteria inside the device were then able to pass to additional patients undergoing bile duct or pancreas in subsequent procedures.

The procedure cause for an insertion of the instrument down the throat of patients as an effective solution for treating digestive system disorders, cancers and gallstones.

Problem May Be Widespread

USA Today first exposed the serious health issue in January 2013. They noted that doctors performing the procedures along with many of the treated patients never realized the potential risks involved in using the scopes. Investigators believe that the life-threatening issues might be significantly more widespread than first believed.

To date, there has been no guidance on how to solve the problem from the device manufacturers or the FDA, which is charged with regulating the scopes. However, the cleaning procedures implemented by Lutheran General seem to have diminished the potential risks substantially.

Legal Issues

Every patient has the expectation that the doctors, facilities and medical device manufacturers are taking every step possible to ensure their safety while undergoing surgery, procedures and treatments. When that expectation is diminished, patients often suffer serious injuries or death.

While the duodenoscopes might be effective instruments for treating the condition, injuring the patient with deadly bacteria creates legal issues. Doctors and medical facilities can be held legally accountable through medical malpractice laws for using defective equipment and not taking proper precautions when cleaning the instrument. The medical device manufacturers can be found liable under product liability tort law. The patients involved in this serious superbug outbreak are likely entitled the file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against all individuals and entities responsible for their damages.

If you or a loved one was a victim of the outbreak at Lutheran General Hospital, contact our office for a free case review,