Hospitals around the world are recognising the benefits of switching to single-use, but why?

Simply put, switching to single-use devices and surgical instruments reduces the risk of patient-to-patient cross-contamination as well as saving the time and cost involved in reprocessing.

The traditional alternative to single-use instruments is reusable instruments, which by their very nature have inherent risks when it comes to infection of patients and reliability.

Reusable instruments can be perceived to offer false economies to healthcare practitioners and health institutions as a result of these risks.

For example, in parts of the UK, it is estimated that surgical site infections account for about 16% of all healthcare-associated infections.[1]  Just consider the significant knock-on implications in terms of cost, patient safety and recovery time. By switching to sterile single-use medical instruments, healthcare practitioners would virtually eliminate these associated risks.

Reusable medical instruments also pose inherent concerns regarding their maintenance, storage and repeated use, all of which are often exacerbated by reprocessing and sterilisation procedures.

Many surgical instrument failures occur as a result of healthcare practitioners failing to follow manufacturers’ reprocessing and handling instructions. Common errors include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of sinks to soak, wash and rinse the instruments
  • Not having all the manufacturer’s instructions to hand
  • Staff not following all the manufacturer’s written instructions
  • Not using ultrasonic cleaners properly
  • Not thoroughly inspecting instruments prior or post reprocessing
  • Not using inspection lamps or lenses
  • Assembling hinged instruments in the closed position
  • Not storing sterile items in a separate, controlled area

By adopting single-use instruments, healthcare practitioners effectively eliminate all the above issues with a single decision.

Single-use instruments are designed to be cost-effective, completely sterile and ready to use at the point of care.

[1] NICE support for commissioning for surgical site infection, October 2013.


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