Bronchoscopes are one of the most commonly-used instruments in hospitals, and they not only put patients at risk of infection if they are not cleaned properly but can come with a heavy price tag for institutions that reprocess them for use on other patients.

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Hospitals that disinfect and reuse bronchoscopes pay anywhere from 21 percent to 155 percent more per instrument than if they had purchased a sterile, single-use bronchoscope, according to a new study.  The “real-world cost” for procedures with reusable bronchoscopes ranged from $281 to $803 for each bronchoscope and was comparable to or higher than the cost of sterile, single-use bronchoscopes, researchers found.

And those figures, according to the study, likely underestimate the total because costs associated with essential equipment such as leak testers, irrigation systems, automated endoscope reprocessors and drying cabinets were not included.

The study, “Managing Bronchoscope Quality and Cost: Results of a real-world study,” was conducted by Cori L. Ofstead, MSPH; Krystina M. Hopkins, MPH; John E. Eiland, RN, MS; Harry P. Wetzler, MD, MSPH. It builds on a related study last year, published in Chest Journal, that examined the effectiveness of the cleaning processes for reusable bronchoscopes.

Bronchoscopes, a type of endoscope, are delicate instruments that enable practitioners to see the airways to the lungs and perform interventions such as lung biopsies or removing pus and tumors. Reusable bronchoscopes also pose a high risk of cross-contamination. Sterile, single-use bronchoscopes can combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In this new study, Dr. Ofstead and her team examined costs of acquisition, maintenance and repair, cleaning and other consumable reprocessing supplies. They also measured personnel time and wages for reprocessing bronchoscopes, as well as costs of having to reprocess cleaned bronchoscopes.

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