Bleaching for long periods of time can work, but that can damage sensitive instruments, and other effective chemicals can leave dangerous residue or otherwise harm the tools.
But Dash said she believes the methods used by Cape Cod Hospital, which go beyond what some other hospitals do, destroy the vast majority of the prions. “Is it absolutely sure there is not one prion remaining? No it’s not absolutely sure. That is one of the reasons we contacted our patients,’’ she said.
Dr. Donald Guadagnoli, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said the probe went “through four different sterilization processes at least’’ by the time Cape Cod borrowed it. “When it came in, we put it through its own sterilization process here. That is why the risk is low.’’
“The reality is there are a lot of risks to undergoing surgery and most are substantially more significant than this,’’ he said.
DeMaria, the state epidemiologist, said there is debate about which, if any, sterilization procedures can get rid of prions on surgical instruments. But given that no one knew that the New Hampshire patient had the disease at the time of the original surgery, he does not believe any additional steps could have been taken to protect patients.
“The company and hospitals did everything they were supposed to do,’’ he said.
Correction: Because of incomplete information provided to the Globe, an earlier version of this story imprecisely described how eight patients at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., were potentially exposed to a rare brain disease. A hospital-owned instrument previously used on a patient who likely had Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease was used in the eight patients’ surgeries, not a device rented from Medtronic.
Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at email@example.com.