Over the past several years, there have been disturbing reports of exposure to blood-borne diseases such as HIV, and Hepatitis B and C after undergoing colonoscopies. The most recent of these cases was reported earlier this month at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, Massachusetts, where 293 patients who underwent colonoscopies between June 2012 and April 2013 may have been exposed to these diseases. This exposure was due to improper sterilization of colonoscopy equipment, which had been purchased in 2012 and required a different sterilization process.

While colonoscopies are usually considered routine medical procedures, ease your mind about potential risks by asking your physician:

1. Does your facility have staff devoted to the reprocessing and disinfection of colonoscopy equipment?
2. Does your facility track and report immediate complications should they occur?
3. Does your facility track outcomes and complications from colonoscopies?
4. How can I be sure that the physician performing the colonoscopy will do a careful examination?
5. Is there anything I can do to avoid risks of the procedure, or at least recognize complications should they occur?