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Potential spread of vCJD by surgical instruments?


A recent article in the Times, on Wednesday 30th August, by Valerie Elliott, pointed out fears over the potential spread of the human form of BSE from surgical instruments. Any surgical equipment used in operations on the tonsil, appendix and brain are to be destroyed after one use. This move will cost millions of pounds, but health officials believe they must take every possible precaution to prevent this risk of patients contracting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

The report states that the rule has been mooted before, but has been considered too expensive. Recent research has shown that the disease can jump between species more easily than supposed, and humans can contract the disease from sheep, pigs and poultry.

Editorial comment: Obviously, in view of these concerns we need to take seriously the possibility of destroying all equipment used for nerve lesioning. This will include probes used for cryoprobe and radiofrequency lesioning, including cordotomies, trigeminal radiofrequencies - even dorsal nerve root lesions and facet nerve lesions. It seems to me that the potential for spread of vCJD is a theoretical possibility and that we will need to be aware of this, the risks and the potential for litigation in the future, even when the link between our lesion and the condition cannot be completely established.

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