In late 2014, an infection breaks out in a California hospital. The infection is deemed a “superbug,” meaning it is nearly impossible to treat. While most superbugs are unavoidable forces of nature, this superbug is different. After two infected patients die from the superbug, its cause is traced back to a surgical scope used that has is used in over half of a million procedures annually. As a result, an investigation is launched into the Olympus surgical scope, revealing that its design makes complete sterilization near impossible, which spawned the superbug.Olympus Endoscope
An endoscope is a long tubular device that is typically flexible. Endoscopes have a video camera attached to the end of the tube, which allows doctors to examine the inside of a patient’s body. Scopes also contain a light, which illuminates the inside of a patient’s body. You may have heard of endoscopic surgery, which the type of surgery that utilizes endoscopes. They are typically less invasive than other forms of surgery because doctors do not have to make large incisions to examine the inside of a patient; that is what the endoscope is for. In addition to surgical uses, an endoscope can be used to explore or confirm a diagnosis and assist with biopsies. As mentioned before, use of an endoscope gets rid of the need for an incision, meaning the scope has to be inserted into the patient’s body via mouth or rectum.
An endoscope manufactured by the company Olympus was placed on the market back in 2010. The specific model is the Olympus TJF-Q180V duodenoscope. Considering that its use is fairly widespread, one would think that Olympus should obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before profiting from the device. Unfortunately, that did not occur, meaning the endoscope went on the market without ever receiving the FDA’s blessing. This endoscope was commonly used in ERCP procedures, which are used to diagnose various diseases including cancer. After continued use, some patients who had procedures involving the scope began to suffer from serious infections. Soon, the infections became more serious, leading to their classification as superbugs. As a result of the infection, two people died and 180 more were exposed to the deadly bacteria at a hospital in Los Angeles. Another 39 people developed infections in a Seattle Hospital that resulted in the death of 18 patients, allegedly at the hands of the Olympus Scope.What Is A Superbug and What Makes This Scope So Dangerous?
The term “superbug” has consistently been thrown around when discussing the Olympus scope. A superbug is a type of bacteria that is nearly impossible to treat with antibiotics. As bacteria multiply, they mutate as well, allowing them to become more resilient. A superbug is bacteria that has multiplied and mutated so quickly and significantly that is impossible to treat. Superbug bacteria can be made up of E. Coli and Klebsiella, both of which can lead to serious infections on their own. Don’t put on your hazmat suit just yet: most healthy individuals are not at risk for superbugs. Generally, only those who have weak immune systems, those who have had invasive devices in their bodies, and those who are taking certain antibiotics are at risk.
Complications from the Olympus scope are so prevalent because of how the scope was designed. The name Olympus may sound familiar to you because they used to be a popular brand of camera. A couple years back, though, the company was in dire financial straits, prompting their U.S. based executives to aggressively market medical devices. The scope at issue here was quickly marketed and sold without FDA approval; approval which may have revealed how difficult it was to sterilize the device. This scope in particular is so conducive to cultivating bacteria because it contains numerous nooks and tiny areas which are impossible to clean. As a result, trace amounts of bacteria from one patient remains on the scope when it is inserted into the next patient. When this cycle occurs a few times, the bacteria only grows, multiplies, and mutates, which is how a superbug is born. The FDA has now acknowledged that even following the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning will not ensure that the device is sterile.Olympus Scope Lawsuits
Given how dangerous this scope is, families of those affected by superbugs have started suing Olympus, claiming that the product is defective. One suit alleges that the device is prone to spreading bacteria and that Olympus should have designed a scope that was easier to clean. Even a hospital in Seattle has joined the litigation against Olympus.
Since these cases are fairly new, we do not have any information regarding potential verdicts or settlements. Just know that attorneys are starting to take a look at these cases, us included.Contact Us
Situations like these are completely avoidable. Our firm is committed to holding these companies responsible for putting harmful products on the market. If you or a loved one has suffered an infection as a result of an Olympus endoscope, call us at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation or follow the link for a free online consultation.