Three UCH patients die after infections connected to contaminated surgical tool

We thoroughly investigated this incident and determined that nine patients who underwent an ERCP using a particular endoscope developed infections; three of these patients later died,” said Dan Weaver, spokesman for UCH.

AURORA | Three of nine University of Colorado Hospital patients who developed infections from a contaminated surgical tool have died in the past year, according to the hospital.

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows the tip of an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) duodenoscope, attached to a long tube, not shown. The Los Angeles Times reports Thursday, May 5, 2016, that at least three patients died last year at a Southern California hospital in a bacterial outbreak suspected to have been caused by tainted duodenoscopes. The scopes, lightweight tubes threaded through the mouth into the top of the small intestine, have been linked to bacterial outbreaks that sickened dozens of patients in hospitals around the country. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration via AP, File)
This undated file photo provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows the tip of an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) duodenoscope, attached to a long tube, not shown. The Los Angeles Times reports Thursday, May 5, 2016, that at least three patients died last year at a Southern California hospital in a bacterial outbreak suspected to have been caused by tainted duodenoscopes. The scopes, lightweight tubes threaded through the mouth into the top of the small intestine, have been linked to bacterial outbreaks that sickened dozens of patients in hospitals around the country. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration via AP, File)

The confirmation comes after medical safety expert Lawrence Muscarella outlined the situation to the Sentinel last week, detailing how patients who had an Olympus-manufactured duodenoscope were infected with E. coli.

Muscarella said he was alerted to the situation based on regulatory reports filed by Pennsylvania-based Olympus Corp. with the Food and Drug Administration regarding patient infections that occurred after the duodenoscopes were used for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), during which the tools are inserted through a patient’s mouth and travel through the throat and stomach into the small intestine.

University of Colorado Hospital spokesman Dan Weaver declined a full interview, noting the ongoing investigations of the manufacturer and the design of the scopes, but offered a statement saying that patients and family members affected by the duodenoscope-based infections were notified by UCH after the issue was discovered.

“Providing the very best and safest care to our patients is our top priority at University of Colorado Hospital. We thoroughly investigated this incident and determined that nine patients who underwent an ERCP using a particular endoscope developed infections; three of these patients later died,” Weaver said. “These patients were very ill, and it is unclear what impact the infections had on their deaths. We notified the patients and/or their family members in addition to notifying the manufacturer of the scope, the CDPHE and the FDA.”

The infections at UCH come after at least three patients died in a similar bacterial outbreak suspected to have been caused by tainted medical scopes, according to a Los Angeles Times report last week.

Officials at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, Calif., confirmed in August 2015 that three patients were sickened. The hospital later told Olympus of the deaths.

Contamination of duodenoscopes has been linked to bacterial outbreaks that sickened dozens of patients in hospitals around the country. In an earlier similar outbreak at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, officials confirmed that patients had died.

It is still not clear how many patients may have been infected during the outbreak at Huntington or if only three died. The hospital will not say how many patients may have been exposed to the dangerous bacteria.

Olympus’ report to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that the three patients had been diagnosed with septicemia — a serious bloodstream infection — after undergoing treatment with a duodenoscope in mid-July 2015.

All three patients tested positive for a similar drug-resistant bacteria called pseudomonas. The hospital told Olympus that health authorities would determine the patients’ cause of death.

Peter Kaufman, a Los Angeles lawyer, filed lawsuits on behalf of three patients treated with the scopes at Huntington. Two of those patients died, he said.

Last month, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, released FDA data showing that as many as 350 patients at 41 medical facilities around the world had been infected or exposed to tainted duodenoscopes from January 2010 to the end of October 2015.

Muscarella estimates that duodenoscopes are used for ERCPs more than 600,000 times annually across the country.

— Aurora Sentinel Brandon Johansson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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