Although not the first step that comes to mind when considering TEE probe reprocessing, high-level disinfection would be impossible without rinsing. Rinsing actually must take place twice throughout the entire reprocessing procedure: once after cleaning and once after high-level disinfection.
The quality of that water is of extreme importance, especially the water used after the high-level disinfection. If the water used to rinse the probe after disinfection is not absolutely clean and free from harmful bacteria and microorganisms, it can contaminate the probe and lead to illness of a patient.
This is especially true for reprocessing departments being run within older healthcare facilities. The plumbing for older buildings is usually located deep underground below the building; as a result, if the building is old, the pipes which carry water to the building are at least as old. This means that, in some cases, the pipes can actually be corroded and can transmit bacteria and viruses such as Legionnaires' disease. This poses a great risk to patients and to the facility which can be held liable for such an outbreak.
Currently, standards for water quality are set by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). AAMI publishes a comprehensive Technical Information Report (TIR) called TIR34 – Water for the Reprocessing of Medical Devices. While the current AAMI TIR34 guidelines are rather extensive, they will soon be replaced by an updated standard, AAMI ST108. As this new standard goes into effect, healthcare facilities will need to pay more attention than ever to the quality of the water used for reprocessing medical devices.
This is a case where automation can make a big difference. Rather than having to wonder whether or not the water from the tap is clean enough to rinse a disinfected TEE probe, using an automated reprocessor like the TEEClean® Automated TEE Probe Cleaner Disinfector can save the headache. TEEClean was engineered to incorporate an FDA-cleared 0.005 micron water filter for each rinse cycle, certifying that the water is free from any particulate matter and from any contaminants which could be harmful to patients. That is forty times more filtration power than the CDC's baseline recommendation.
The water used to rinse TEE ultrasound probes is of great importance. Make sure that your probes remain properly disinfected by focusing on the quality of the water used to rinse them in your healthcare facility.