According to a recent news release from the Arkansas Department of Health, a single incident of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) has been reported at the Washington Regional Medical Center in Little Rock, AR. This incident was reported in mid-February after a procedure confirmed that the patient had signs of the degenerative brain disease.
While CJD is not easily transmittable between humans, and is an extremely rare disease with less than 1,000 victims per year in the United States, it is fatal condition with no known cures.
The patient was diagnosed with CJD several months after having received an invasive surgical procedure at Washington Regional in December of 2015. As a result, Washington Regional cancelled all surgical procedures and followed World Health Organization guidelines by conducting surgical instrument sterilization and replacing any equipment that could have been carrying traces of the disease. Patients who received other invasive surgeries from Washington Regional between December and March could be at risk of infection, and the medical center has worked diligently to notify patients who are potentially affected.
There is little known information currently available about this particular type of CJD. It can be caused by mutations within the brain cells, spontaneous occurrence or through infection. It is characterized by once healthy brain proteins mutating to abnormal "prions" which build up in the brain tissue. Once contracted, the patient's brain tissue will rapidly deteriorate, affecting their ability to walk, talk, remember information and complete other ordinary day-to-day tasks. There are no viable treatments to slow or stop the progression of the disease at this time.
While it has been acknowledged that prions are highly resistant to common sterilization procedures, and that CJD could be transmitted by inadequately sterilized medical equipment, there have been no new cases of transmission this way since 1976. To date, there have only been 250 total cases of transmission caused by surgical exposure, and only six of those cases have been directly linked to poor surgical instrument sterilization. However, both the WHO and CDC recommend additional surgical instrument sterilization following exposure as a precautionary measure.
Following this instance, Washington Regional closed down their surgical center for a full day while sterilization crews cleared the area and new instruments were brought in. Surgical procedures resumed according to schedule the following day.
Surgical instrument sterilization continues to be an important part of daily operations for all kinds of medical centers. Harmful microbes can hide in the cracks and crevices of devices, especially those that are not thoroughly sterilized and dried between procedures.
PREZIO Health provides on-site surgical instrument sterilization and training services to help medical centers achieve the highest level of quality and safety in their operating rooms. Our goal is to help you improve your sterilization process while informing all staff members about the important facts regarding improper sterilization. We can also assist with ongoing maintenance and repairs of endoscopic equipment for best results.