Archive Infection Control 2018

Make the Switch to Rigid Sterilization Containers

Do away with blue wrap for reprocessing high-volume instrument sets.

Shane Ricks

Shane Ricks, RN, MHS


Nasal Injection
OPEN AND SHUT Your reprocessing techs will appreciate the added efficiencies and sterility assurance that rigid sterilization containers provide.

Investing in rigid sterilization containers is a classic case of addition by subtraction. No more managing mounds of blue wrap that need to be recycled. No more wasting time unwrapping perforated wrap from instrument trays before rewrapping and reloading them into the autoclave for another time-wasting sterilization cycle.

There's no doubt that rigid sterilization containers help maintain the sterility and integrity of instrument sets. In my experience, it takes about the same amount of time to load instruments into a rigid container as it does to wrap them in blue wrap, so the decision to add containers often comes down to the amount of wrap and the number of containers you need to accommodate your case volume and instrument use.

When our surgery center recently added orthopedic procedures, I compared the cost of buying blue wrap with the purchase price of rigid containers. The numbers showed that rigid containers were a cost-effective option for sterilizing high-use instruments, such as arthroscopic cameras, arthroscopes and shavers.

You need adequate case volume to support the switch to rigid containers.

Here's a closer look at the numbers: It costs us $305 for a 11.25" by 11.75" by 5.5" container and $345 for a 18.5" by 11.5" by 5.5" container. The size you'll need depends on the number and type of instruments you have in constant rotation (see "Rigid Containers: Size Matters").

Filterless containers feature integrated holes in the lid that let steam escape, while other containers require the purchase of single-use filters — you can buy 1,000 for less than $75. All rigid containers have locks and indicator systems on the outside surface that you can check with a quick glance to see if the contents have been sterilized.

The container we ended up purchasing requires 2 lid locks, which cost about 25 cents per load. Disposable filters cost 7 cents each, so we spend about 32 cents per load to use rigid containers. Blue wrap, on the other hand, costs $2.67 for a 48" by 48" sheet. Smaller segments of blue wrap are cheaper: $1.42 for a 36" by 36" segment, which we use most often to wrap our instrument sets, and 62 cents for a 24" by 24" piece. As you can see, in our case, buying blue wrap ends up being more expensive per load than investing in the single-use components needed for rigid containers.

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