High-level disinfectants are vital to the reprocessing of TEE ultrasound probes. These days, there are many options to choose from when deciding which chemicals best suit your needs: glutaraldehyde, ortho-phthalaldehyde, peracetic acid, and others. What some don't realize is that multi-use disinfectants are not the only option available for high-level disinfection and, in fact, can pose a greater risk than the alternative choice: single-use high level disinfectants.
While multi-use disinfectants are cheaper than single-use, you have to remember you get what you pay for. In the case of multi-use disinfectants, you're paying for a headache and added risk to the safety of your patients, staff, and facility. It's easy to break down the three main sources of risk when it comes to multi-use disinfectants: the disinfectant solution, the staff member, and the MRC strip. If any one of these isn't performing optimally every time, then there is a significant risk of probes either not being fully high-level disinfected or of a probe being damaged, leading to issues down the road.
- The Solution
- The Staff
- The Strip
The first source of risk is the disinfectant solution. This poses a risk because, over time, these solutions weaken and become less able to effectively disinfect the TEE probe's insertion tube. While this solution should be tested before each and every use, many facilities choose to simply test the solution once at the beginning of each day. This means that by the end of the day, a solution may have lost its potency, but could still be used to high-level disinfect a probe.
If that happens, the probe is not actually disinfected to the degree it should be and could pose a serious health risk to the next patient, especially if they are immunocompromised. Not only does that threaten the wellbeing of the patient, but it will affect the financial wellbeing and reputation of the healthcare facility.
Single-use disinfectants (like TD-5®, TD-8®, and TD-12® AquaCide®) completely resolve this issue. Each time a probe requires disinfection, it receives its own fresh bottle of disinfectant. As long as the expiration date has not passed, there is virtually no chance that the disinfectant has lost its potency. As a result, the probe will get the full high-level disinfection it needs in order to be safe for use on the next patient. This saves a facility time and money while also ensuring the safety of patients.
The next significant source of risk stems from the human element. We all try our best to always perform at the top of our game, but let's face it: some days are just not the best. Sometimes for reasons outside our control, we humans become overtired, overworked, stressed, distracted, or all of the above. When this happens, we make more mistakes. On these more trying days, the tedious task of using MRC strips can feel impossible, making it easy to misread the tiny strip.
Even on a good day, these strips are sometimes hard to decipher. The strip changed color, but is it the right color? It's supposed to be olive green, but it looks like army green? … Or are they the same? It can be hard to tell. And when your reprocessing department has to run through various test strips for varying solutions, each with their own special shade of green to discern, it's a wonder mistakes aren't made every day.
A single-use disinfectant removes all doubt introduced by test strips. Each bottle is pre-mixed and contains just the right amount of everything needed to properly and fully high-level disinfect a TEE probe. No more guessing at the right shade of green. Or is it chartreuse?
Lastly, there can actually be problems with the MRC test strips themselves. In the first place, the right strips must be purchased for use with the particular disinfectant being used. Then, the right test strip needs to be used. In a reprocessing department, it can be easy to mix up which strips go with which chemistry. Then there's the chance that the strips have expired. If all that is in proper order, however, there is still the possibility that quality control was not performed for that package of strips or even simply that the strips are defective due to light or moisture exposure from a tube left open.
Single-use disinfectants eliminate the risks posed by test strips. As they are not needed, it simply isn't an issue.
The best reason to make the switch over to single-use high-level disinfectants is the health and safety of your patients. A little peace of mind and a reputation for going above and beyond expectations to keep patients healthy is worth a few extra cents.