Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) ultrasound probes are a vital tool in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac conditions. These probes are frequently used in medical procedures such as cardiac surgeries and monitoring, and their importance cannot be overemphasized. However, these probes must be reprocessed after each use to prevent infection and ensure patient safety. The reprocessing of TEE probes involves a series of steps, including cleaning, high-level disinfection, and storage. These steps are necessary to prevent the transmission of infections between patients.
However, the chemicals and devices used in each step are often harsh and can have an impact on the probe's material components, potentially causing damage or compromising its integrity. Material compatibility testing is a critical aspect of the reprocessing procedure as it ensures that the probes, reprocessing chemicals, and devices are compatible and do not damage the probe or compromise its functionality, which could put patients and staff at risk. According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography’s (SDMS) Sonographer Best Practices for Infection Prevention and Control, “It is critical to ensure that any sterilization process is compatible with the transducer and will not cause damage.”
Material compatibility testing involves evaluating the interaction between the probe, the reprocessing chemicals, and devices. The goal is to ensure that the probe's materials are not adversely affected by reprocessing, which can damage the probes' delicate components.
There are several factors to consider when performing material compatibility testing for TEE probes. One critical factor is the probe's material composition, which can vary depending on the probe's make and model. Probes are made with various materials including silicone, polyurethane, metal, rubber, and other materials. These materials can react differently to the numerous reprocessing chemicals, so it's essential to identify the optimal cleaning and disinfecting solutions for each probe material.
Another important consideration is the reprocessing chemicals and devices used to clean and disinfect the probe. These can include enzymatic cleaners, detergents, high-level disinfectants, and sterilization methods. Each of these chemicals has a unique chemical composition and can interact differently with each probe's materials. Certain chemicals can cause corrosion of metal components of TEE probes, leading to their failure. Similarly, some chemicals can weaken the plastic parts of the probes, leading to cracks or even breakages. Rubber components can also be damaged by certain chemicals, potentially leading to leaks and contamination. Material compatibility testing is an essential step in ensuring the safety and effectiveness of TEE probes.
If an ultrasound probe is used with any chemicals or undergoes any procedures with which it is not compatible, minute fractures can begin to form on the insertion tube. At the start, these fractures are invisible to the eye, but they are perfect for bacteria seeking refuge and allow them a safe place to grow and replicate, potentially even creating an impenetrable barrier, called biofilm, around themselves. This puts patients at risk for contracting a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) and, in severe cases, can lead to death. As these fractures grow and become deeper, they can expose the probe’s electrical components, creating a risk of electrocution for the operator and patient alike.
Material compatibility testing involves exposing a TEE ultrasound probe to the chemicals and devices used in a particular method of reprocessing and monitoring for any changes in the probe's material properties. The testing can be done using various methods, including visual inspection, microscopy, and chemical analysis. The testing is essential to ensure that the probe's material properties remain intact and that it can continue to function effectively. CS Medical’s enzymatic cleaners, high-level disinfectants, automated reprocessors, and other products have all undergone significant material compatibility testing with all the major TEE probe manufacturers successfully. Always contact your probe’s manufacturer to verify material compatibility with any products you use to reprocess your probes.
Material compatibility testing is a critical aspect of the reprocessing of TEE ultrasound probes. It ensures that the probe's materials are not adversely affected by the reprocessing procedure and that the reprocessing chemicals and devices are effective in removing contaminants from the probe without causing long-term damage. Proper cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization protocols, along with regular microbial testing, are also essential for ensuring the continued safety and effectiveness of TEE probes in diagnosing and treating cardiac conditions. By following these guidelines and protocols, you can help improve the level of care patients receive and ensure their health and safety.