If you work in the sterile services department of a hospital, you will be aware that surgical instruments represent a large share of your department spending. The two most common complaints from surgeons regarding surgical instruments are that they are not functioning properly or that they are blemished.
It is important to ensure that the surgical instruments remain in good condition, so that the lifespan of the instrument is prolonged and that they remain capable of delivering safe care to patients.
#1 Cleaning of Surgical Instruments
Surgical instruments should always be rinsed immediately after use. Running the instruments under warm water will help to remove blood, tissue, and fluids before the washing and disinfecting process begins.
Decontamination processes include cleaning, disinfection and sterilization. This process is used for reusable surgical instruments, to make them safe for further use on patients by staff. The effective decontamination of surgical instruments is essential to minimise the risk of transmitting infections.
Automated washer disinfectors are the preferred tool for cleaning surgical instruments, as they will clean and disinfect during one cycle. Automated washer disinfectors use a spray system that distributes the water and chemicals. This ensures that all surgical instruments being cleaned are in direct contact with the cleaning solution.
#2 Inspection of Surgical Instruments
Problems can be avoided by paying full attention to the processing of the surgical instruments and developing an understanding of the possible causes of corrosion.
Corrosion of surgical instruments will affect their performance and inspection is the easiest way to keep instruments in peak condition. A quick visual inspection after the sterilization process can help identify any problems before the surgical instruments are re-introduced into surgery. The instrument should be inspected for any remaining cleaning product residue, then check for signs of corrosion or cracks.
#3 Function Testing Surgical Instruments
Different types of surgical instruments require different protocols for function testing. Ensure that all cutting edges are smooth and that the instruments are properly aligned and performing as the should.
New instruments should also be checked for proper function and alignment. It is a good idea to compare new surgical instruments with those that have been used before. Forceps are especially important to function test and should engage evenly when being closed. The teeth of forceps, for example, should be sharp and equally sized. Ensure that all instrument jaws, ratchets, and shanks are not bent and any instruments in disrepair should be serviced by trained technicians.
Surgical instruments that typically require function testing include:
- Needle Holders
- Towel Clips
The frequency of any instrument replacements can be reduced significantly by employing a preventive maintenance plan. High-quality surgical instruments will have a longer life when tested and repaired regularly. Poor maintenance creates avoidable problems for sterile service departments, which are far more costly than the price of regularly replacing these instruments.