When an ultrasound probe has been used, we often hear that it is critical that the probe be cleaned prior to disinfection. What we may not hear quite as often is why it is so important for the equipment, the patient, and even for the facility.
First, we ought to review what cleaning is defined as by the CDC. According to the CDC's Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, "Cleaning is the removal of foreign material (e.g., soil, and organic material) from objects and is normally accomplished using water with detergents or enzymatic products."
Why does the probe need to be cleaned before being high-level disinfected? If a probe is not cleaned properly, it may result in biofilm developing on the probe, making disinfection difficult to achieve. In short, biofilm is a nearly impervious substance that encases bacteria, keeping it from contact with disinfectant and disallowing effective disinfection. Biofilm ultimately damages the probe and puts patient safety at risk. Biofilm is almost impossible to remove, so once it develops the probe must either be vigorously cleaned (which could damage it), sent for repair, or replaced, all of which are very expensive options. Simply cleaning probes ensures that your facility can keep these costs down.
It's also imperative to clean probes before disinfection in order to keep patients safe and healthy from infections. The Joint Commission has identified several requirements which facilities have the most trouble complying with, thus putting patients' health in jeopardy. They show that 49% of ambulatory care facilities, 59% of hospitals, and a full 73% of critical access hospitals are non-compliant to standard IC.02.02.01, which states, "The organization reduces the risk of infections associated with medical equipment, devices, and supplies.” Those numbers are troubling and can lead to terrible, sometimes fatal outcomes. Your patients are counting on you to keep them healthy; don't let them down.
Cleaning probes is also critical when it comes to keeping your facility up and running. If a patient does contract an infection as a result of a procedure, the facility will be held legally and even financially responsible for the damages caused to the patient. In addition to financial burdens, the reputation of your facility will suffer. Lastly, if your ultrasound probes are not being properly cleaned and reprocessed, auditors may penalize your facility resulting in fines and lots of red tape.
Instead, avoid all the hassle and ensure that your ultrasound probes are being properly pre-cleaned and cleaned after every use and before disinfection. Just taking the time to properly clean probes will save time, money, and may even save lives.