The art of disinfecting transesophagael (TEE) ultrasound probes is very different and challenging when compared to other endocavity probes, i.e. a colonoscope or gastroscope. The industry, for years, has categorized TEE probes as an endoscope. The similarities of TEE probes to endoscopes are minor. Take the colonoscope and gastroscope, they are similar in length to the TEE probe but that is the only similarity. To properly reprocess a TEE ultrasound probe the technician should be aware of the delicate nature of the various components. A critical difference between the colonoscope and gastroscope is that the TEE probe can’t be completely submerged into the rinse and high-level disinfectant bathes. The TEE ultrasound probe is not water tight and the complete submersion of the probe could cause serious damage and result in the probes inoperability. A thorough understanding of the TEE ultrasound probe, of how it can and should be reprocessed, is critical. This knowledge will lead to minimized TEE ultrasound probe damage, improved patient outcome and allow for proper reprocessing that will minimize HAIs.
TEE ultrasound probes consist of four main parts, as described by probe manufacturers and as illustrated in Figure 1. Part one consists of the electrical connector and strain relief. This portion connects the ultrasound machine to the TEE ultrasound probe. The cable of the TEE ultrasound probe connects the handle and steering mechanism. This portion of the TEE probe is not water tight and should not be submersed in liquid. Section 4, as illustrated in Figure 1, is the long insertion tube that has the transducer at the tip. This section of the TEE probe can be difficult to handle during pre-cleaning, cleaning, high-level disinfection, drying and subsequent storage and transportation. The overall length, from points one to four, of the TEE ultrasound probe and the fragile nature of the transducer make handling of the device susceptible to damage and challenging for healthcare professional. Care to minimize excessive handling and contact shock to the distal tip should be taken when manipulating the components during all facets of reprocessing.