Back in early 2008 I remember hearing about a cluster of cases of Hepatitis apparently caused by reusing needles at an endoscopy clinic in Nevada. I’ve heard other news stories like this over the years and always wondered who in this day and age would ever use a needle on more than one patient?

It never occurred to me that you can infect multiple patients by re-using needles on the same patient! How? If the medication vial you are drawing from is used on multiple patients, the medication itself will become contaminated from tiny amounts of blood punched back into the vial by the used needle.

This was exactly the case at Endoscopy Center of Nevada:

    A nurse would administer an injection of Propofol, an anesthetic, to put the patient to sleep before a colonoscopy. If the patient started to wake up before the procedure was finished, the nurse would use a syringe to draw more of the drug from the vial, using a fresh needle — but reusing the syringe, allowing the vial to be contaminated with the patient’s blood.

–From article in Las Vegas Sun, Mar. 2, 2008 LINK

Apparently the nurses were following the instructions of the clinic owner, who had told them to use the larger vials to save money. By October 23, 2008, there were 105 cases thought to be associated with this clinic.