In modern healthcare, endoscopes are indispensable tools for diagnosis and treatment. However, their effective use relies on a meticulous reprocessing routine that involves cleaning, disinfection, drying, and storage. Neglecting these steps can lead to potentially life-threatening infections, as improperly reprocessed endoscopes may introduce harmful bacteria to patients.
One of the biggest challenges with endoscope reprocessing is the endoscope’s delicate design. They can’t undergo heat sterilization, and they have long narrow lumens and surfaces that are difficult to clean and can harbor harmful bacteria or other organisms. Recognizing these risks, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) have established stringent processing recommendations. Recent research has shown multiple drug–resistant patient infections from endoscopes, prompting changes to the ST91:2021 standards with an increased focus on drying procedures during endoscope reprocessing.
6 Benefits of Using an Endoscope Drying Cabinet
Many facilities don’t use specialized cabinets for drying and storing their endoscopes. However, endoscope drying cabinets help keep your facility compliant with ST91 standards and offer several critical advantages.
1. Increases Drying Capacity
Physicians perform an estimated 20 million GI endoscopies annually in the US, meaning facilities and hospitals constantly use and reprocess endoscopes. Your facility may have a substantial collection of instruments to keep up with usage trends, all of which must be properly dried and stored according to ST91 standards.
The new standards now recommend you dry endoscope channels for a minimum of 10 minutes or until moisture is no longer visible. The right endoscope drying cabinets can vastly increase drying capacity and streamline the workflow, making this step easier. Cabinets differ in size, but the more scopes a cabinet can hold, the more you can dry and store.
Larger cabinets, like those from Capsa Healthcare, can hold up to 18 endoscopes, whereas the half-width sizes can fit up to eight. Adding larger cabinets to the processing unit can improve your lab’s reprocessing throughput while maintaining compliance with ST91 recommendations.
2. Pressurized HEPA-Filtered Airflow
The AAMI recommends that facilities use two types of cabinets: those that circulate HEPA-filtered air at continuous positive pressure through the entire console and the endoscope channel and those with airflow only through the cabinet at continuous positive pressure. One is a combined drying and storage cabinet, and the other is conventional storage.
Organizations have yet to decide which is best, but most professional organizations recommend that you dry endoscopes with forced, filtered air for at least 10 minutes before storing. This typically means the scopes are pre-cleaned, manually cleaned, disinfected, flushed, purged with air, dried with forced air, and then stored.
If the drying step is insufficient, bacteria or other organisms can grow inside the channel as it’s hung. One example of this is microbial recontamination of endoscopes from water-borne organisms during rinsing, which can lead to biofilms (which can harbor harmful bacteria and are difficult to clean) inside the endoscope channels and can be prevented by drying endoscopes with HEPA-filtered or instrument air. According to research, about 20% of reprocessed and patient-ready endoscopes become contaminated. Recent outbreak investigations have also found residual contamination on a simple visual inspection.
A drying and storage cabinet with HEPA-filtered continuous forced air through the channel reduces the potential for residual moisture and offers 24/7 protection. However, not all cabinets have the same filtration rates. For the best results, choose a solution with a 99.97% filtration rate of up to 0.3 micrometers.
2. Easy to Clean
While endoscopes must be cleaned and disinfected according to standards, the drying cabinet must also undergo regular cleaning. Standards recommend cleaning your drying cabinet at least once a week or when visibly dirty.
The easier the cabinet is to clean, the more efficient the process, and the more streamlined the workflow for environmental and sterilization technicians. Most endoscope drying cabinets feature powder-coated metal or stainless steel and flat surfaces, making them easy to sanitize for storage.
Look for additional features such as removable drip trays, a sloped cabinet top, and durable materials. These make it easier to efficiently access problem areas that promote bacterial growth, ensuring that every nook and cranny is clean and ready for storage.
4. Easy Endoscope Separation
Organisms easily transfer from surfaces, whether from one endoscope to another or from the cabinet to the scope creating a potential for cross-contamination. There are many ways to prevent the potential for cross-contamination, including utilizing single-use products, protective equipment and following a standardized cleaning process.
Instrument separation during storage is a vital step. Endoscopes should hang vertically with enough space to prevent coiling, touching the bottom or sides of the cabinet or touching each other.
Drying cabinets with separator racks and rotating hooks hold scopes securely in place and prevent contact with the cabinet surfaces and other hanging scopes. Rotating hooks can be helpful by allowing micro-adjustments to reduce endoscope touching, ensuring proper isolation.
5. Maintains ST91:2021 Compliance
ST91:2021 standards promote high healthcare standards and patient safety. Close adherence to these recommendations encourages quality patient outcomes and helps prevent significant financial risks and liability. Drying cabinets are one of many essential tools in these procedures to ensure your facility remains compliant and to prevent adverse patient events.
After rinsing, water-borne organisms can remain inside the scope channels, leading to biofilm growth. Sending HEPA-filtered forced air through the endoscopes helps reduce recontamination by drying and keeping dry the internal surface of the scope’s narrow lumen. Thus, a drying cabinet provides additional protection that standard storage cabinets cannot, helping you maintain ST91 compliance and patient-ready instruments.
6. Improves Infection Control
The final phase of reprocessing and infection control procedures is to keep instruments away from contamination until required for patient use. However, improper storage equipment can lead to recontamination, invalidating your entire control process and resulting in high safety risks and costs.
Closed drying cabinets with a HEPA-filtered ventilation fan can provide positive pressure reducing airborne contaminants from adhering to endoscopes surfaces in the storage environment. This keeps endoscopes clean, dry, and safe away from bacteria. Cabinets with the right features help isolate endoscopes from bacteria, dry endoscope channels, and clean air, improving infection control and compliance.
Improve Drying Safety With Capsa Healthcare Medical Storage Solutions
Endoscope reprocessing is essential for patient health and safety, but it comes with risks and lower margins of error than sterilized equipment. Implementing the ST91:2021 standards using innovative tools can streamline your workflows, reduce risk, and help your team produce patient ready scopes consistently.
Capsa Healthcare’s endoscope drying cabinets provide forced HEPA-filtered air drying functions and storage, improving infection control and risk management. The separator racks and rotating hooks allow for vertical hanging and independent adjustment, ensuring instrument isolation.
Our storage solutions are customizable, so you can build a functional system that meets higher standards and fits your facility’s needs. Maintain compliance, best practices, and protect patient safety with industry-leading tools. Talk to our expert team today.