Sterilization Tips

Take a proactive stance on infection prevention! Register and download an 8.5"x11" PDF poster with surgical instrument reprocessing guidelines!

Millennium Surgical partnered with nurse consultant and 2008-2010 elected AORN board member Rose Seavey, RN, BS, MBA, CNOR, CRCST, CSPDT to help facilities improve patient safety. The poster highlights the critical steps, outlined by major accreditation agencies, for surgical instrument cleaning and sterilization practices.

Download the printable Instrument Reprocessing Guidelines Poster


Practices for Proper Instrument Sterilization and Decontamination

Flash sterilization was designed to immediately sterilize a one-of-a-kind device that was dropped or contaminated in the Operating Room. However, flash sterilization today is more often used to sterilize instruments quickly because of insufficient instrument inventories and increased procedure volume. This is especially true for orthopedics and ophthalmology cases.

Tip #1: Use Flash Sterilization Appropriately

Flash sterilization should be used only when there is insufficient time to process by the preferred wrapped or container method. Flash sterilization should not be used as a substitute for insufficient instrument inventory.

Tip #2: Weigh Cost of Instruments vs. Patient Safety

Although instrument sets can be a significant cost for facilities, the cost pales in comparison to the detriment associated with declining patient safety and contamination. Not only does this put the patient at risk, but also the facility's reputation, risk of lawsuits, and JCAHO accreditation.

Tip #3: Establish Guidelines

Define the rules for flash sterilization by your facility and establish appropriate guidelines for everyone to follow. A flash sterilization log must be used.

Tip #4: If you have to Flash, Do it Right

Used closed sterilization containers or the patented Flash-Guard System so instruments are protected from contamination from autoclave to point of use. The Flash-Guard system is easy to use, sterilization is fully validated and instruments can be transported safely within guidelines through non-sterile areas.

Tip #5: Build More Efficient Instrument Sets

Inventory instruments and determine which are used most frequently. Streamlined instrument sets should be built to only include those instruments. The fewer instruments in the set, the less time it takes to process a set. With streamlined sets, money isn't wasted on instruments that are rarely used. Find an instrument vendor who can help you save money and time when building an efficient instrument set.

Tip #6: Dedicate Someone to the Task of Reprocessing Instruments

Ensure all instruments are sterilized through reprocessing by dedicating someone to this responsibility. Patient safety is an important measure for all facilities and reprocessing instruments is a key part of ensuring a sterile and safe environment.

Tip #7: Seek Outside Support

If your budget or systems can not keep up with demands, seek outside help. There are several companies which provide outsourced sterilization services and even companies who can provide sterile instruments on an just-in-time and charge-by-use basis. Contact us for more information!

Read Healthcare Purchasing News' Q&A on reducing flash sterilization.

Read CMS' Flash Sterilization Clarification Memo in evaluating the use of Flash Sterilization in ASCs.


Immediate Use Steam Sterilization

Immediate Use Steam Sterilization can be a safe and effective process if used correctly. However, it should not be used as a matter of convenience.

Steps should be taken to reduce reliance on, and use of, this process. The first appropriate response is to increase the surgical instrument inventory to levels that match the case load. Inadequate inventory is not an excuse for excessive use of immediate-use sterilization. However, as capital budgets are decreasing, this may not be an option for many facilities. A better and more efficient model would be to improve asset management and use the conflict scheduling mechanism.

Facilities should not simply over-ride schedule conflicts and manage resources on the day of surgery. In addition, there needs to be adequate turn over time built into the system in order for the sterile processing department (SPD) to terminally process the instruments.

Click here to read more from Infection Contol Today.


How the FDA is helping address reprocessing challenges.

Learn more about reprocessing reusable medical devices, surgical instruments, the challenges of reprocessing, and ways the FDA is helping address problems with today's reprocessed devices while facilitating improvements in innovative design of the next generation of these devices. In addition, you can learn how to report reprocessing problems to the FDA.

Click here to read more from the FDA.


Priorities from the AAMI/FDA Medical Device Reprocessing Summit

"The Medical Device Reprocessing Summit proved to be an opportunity for a renewed emphasis on performing all the necessary steps in reprocessing reusable medical devices to ensure clean and disinfected or sterilized devices - not just in the universe of regulations, standards, and best practices, but also in the harried clinical environments and diverse sterile processing centers that are ground zero for reprocessing... This publication reports on the clarion theme, challenges, and priority actions developed by consensus at the summit. The report summarizes summit presentations and provides additional context from experts."

Click here to read the report which includes 10 things you can do now to improve reprocessing.


Instrument Reprocessing to Retain Value

Produced by Arbeitskreis Instrumenten-Aufbereitung [Instrument Preprocessing Working Group] in Germany, this document is now in its 10th year of publication. The working group consists of major manufacturers of instruments, disinfectant, cleaning and care agents, sterilization units, endoscopes and MIS, and others in the instrumentation and sterilization fields. Outlining materials and design, media used in reprocessing, sterilization procedures, and identification of instrument failure, this 92-page PDF is arguably one of the most comprehensive documents on sterilization and reprocessing available today.

To download the English version of this document, click here.