BACKGROUND: Both patient and staff safety are of major importance during the procedure of fibreoptic bronchoscopy. Patient safety depends partly on adequate disinfection of instruments and accessories used as well as careful monitoring during the procedure. Adequate facilities, manpower and training are also essential. Staff safety depends partly on adequate procedures to minimise any risks of sensitisation to agents such as glutaraldehyde. An audit was carried out of bronchoscopy procedures in hospitals in the UK and the findings were compared with published guidelines on good practice and clinical consensus. METHODS: A postal questionnaire was sent to 218 bronchoscopy units in the UK. Findings were then compared with published evidence of good practice in the areas of disinfection, including the use of glutaraldehyde, patient monitoring, manpower, facilities, and training. RESULTS: A 73% response rate was obtained. Recommended minimum disinfection times before and after routine bronchoscopies were not achieved by 35% of units. No disinfection was carried out in 34% of units before emergency bronchoscopies and in 19% of units after suspected cases of tuberculosis. Adequate rinsing of the bronchoscope with sterile or filtered water was not carried out by 43% of units. Contrary to recommendations, 31% of departments were still using glutaraldehyde in the patient examination room and inadequate room ventilation was common. Protective clothing was often not worn by staff during bronchoscopy. Inadequate intravenous access and use of supplementary oxygen were found in many units. Practice standards were higher in departments where dedicated bronchoscopy/endoscopy units of the hospital were used, and also where staff had been on external training courses. CONCLUSIONS: This audit has shown that many units do not adhere to guidelines on disinfection procedures and patient monitoring. Unnecessary potential risks due to staff exposure to glutaraldehyde were apparent. National guidelines on good practice are not being followed in areas which may potentially affect patient and staff safety.
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