Too many facilities have no standardized way of storing transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) ultrasound probes. This means that in some facilities, anything goes. Some facilities have used transportation cases to store their TEE probes, but that is not their intended use and is actually prohibited in several countries. We have actually heard stories of facilities who store their expensive and fragile probes in pillow cases! Correct storage of TEE probes is vital to keeping probes in commission for as long as possible and for ensuring the safety of those probes for patients. When a facility has no standard operating procedure in place for the storage of TEE probes, probes are at a higher risk of getting damaged or becoming contaminated.
When choosing a storage option for your TEE probes, take into consideration these recommendations given by The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, SDMS: “Proper storage reduces the risk of re-contamination of the transducer from environmental contaminants or accidental contamination during storage. Follow the manufacturer’s IFU or other guidance for proper storage.” The best method of TEE probe storage will keep probes away from any possible sources of contamination and will prevent damage to the probes.
What are some possible storage solutions?
The two most commonly used options for TEE probe storage are clear PVC tubes mounted on a wall and storage cabinets.
The PVC tube option is often chosen for its low cost. However there are some risks associated with this method of storage. The PVC tubes used for this method are rather narrow and can be very difficult to keep clean on the inside. As these are simply tubes of PVC mounted onto a wall, they are open from the top and bottom, exposing the TEE probes to the possibility of airborne contaminants which can lead to patients coming down with healthcare acquired infections (HAIs).
Additionally, because of their light weight, some facilities may choose to install these TEE probe holders in a working area or even a corridor, making probes even more likely to be damaged or soiled. These PVC tubes also have no level of security, putting the probes at risk of being stolen or tampered with. This could result in very costly and unfortunate situations for the healthcare facility, employees, and patients.
Storage cabinets, like the CleanShield are by far the best option which mitigates the most risk for probes and patients alike. These cabinets are large and easy to clean, inside and out, making it more likely that bacteria will not be harbored inside.
The CleanShield, in particular, keeps the air within the cabinet clean by use of a two-stage, electro-statically charged filtration system. This keeps the TEE probes within safe from any airborne contaminants, preventing HAIs. The front doors of CleanShield cabinets also lock, making sure TEE Probes are protected from theft and contamination. Within the CleanShield, probes are stored hanging vertically, as suggested by the CDC.
The CleanShield also meets the requirements set out by The Joint Commission in their High-Level Disinfection (HLD) and Sterilization BoosterPak which states that probes should be hung, “vertically in a clean, well-ventillated and dust-free area.” While there is no legal national standard in the United States, the Australian Journal of Ultrasound Medicine (AJUM) recommends that a cabinet be used for storage to protect against environmental contamination. Consult your facility’s infection control practitioner and the TEE probe manufacturer to develop a standard operating procedure at your facility and implement one of the safest methods for TEE probe storage: a probe storage cabinet. And stop using pillowcases. Really.