Single-use devices have their fair share of doubters

The Center for Patient Advocacy recently released a survey of surgeons, operating room nurses, and consumers, which suggests that health care professionals have serious concerns about the reuse of single-use medical devices and their impact on patient health and safety.

The majority of doctors and nurses oppose the use of reprocessed single-use medical devices, according to the survey. The survey also shows that most consumers are unaware of the practice of reprocessing, says Neil Kahanovitz, MD, president and founder of the Center for Patient Advo-cacy. According to the results of the survey, three out of every four surgeons believe that reprocessed single-use only medical devices pose a health and safety risk to patients, including the potential spread of hepatitis and HIV. In addition, the survey found that 74% of surgeons felt that single-use only medical devices should not be reprocessed and 79% of nurses believe that the use of reprocessed single-use devices should be discontinued.

"Clearly, this is a safety issue for patients," Kahanovitz says. "The fact that surgeons and nurses are overwhelmingly concerned that the reuse of single-use devices poses a threat to product quality as well as risk of infection and the spread of disease should raise red flags."

Eighty-two percent of nurses and 71% of surgeons surveyed say they would be uncomfortable if a reprocessed single-use device were used on themselves or a family member.

"How can we expect patients to feel safe with these reused devices if surgeons and nurses clearly would not want the devices used on them?" asks Kahanovitz.

Sixty-five percent of consumers are unaware that these surgical devices may have previously been used, often multiple times, in other patients. A recent FDA survey indicates that approximately 25% of U.S. hospitals use reprocessed single-use-only devices.

"It is unacceptable that hospitals and other medical institutions do not routinely inform patients that these devices will be used in their surgery," Kahanovitz says. "It seems to me that they should have a moral obligation to inform patients about this practice and provide them with an opportunity to accept or reject the use of these devices in their surgery."

By a 2-to-1 ratio, patients surveyed said they would expect to be informed about the practice before surgery. And of those aware of this practice, nearly 70% were unaware they had the right to request that such devices not be used in their surgery. The Center for Patient Advocacy has created a consent form for patients to complete before undergoing surgery to reject the use of reprocessed single-use devices in their treatment. The form is available at the center’s web site, www.patientadvocacy.org.