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Archive Infection Control 2019

Speed Up Your Sterile Processing

New technologies and solutions that can help your hard-working techs turn around instruments quickly and safely.

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson, BSN, RN, CSSM, CRCST, CER


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
Case in Point Instrument sets can cause quite a jam if your reprocessing techs aren't equipped to handle a high volume of work.

I've never set foot in your facility, but I bet I know what's going on in the central sterile department. Does the backup of case carts resemble your morning commute? Are reprocessing techs struggling to return perfectly cared-for instruments to ORs where surgeons want to begin cases 5 minutes ago? Is it a constant challenge for techs to clean and sterilize increasingly complex devices? Yeah, thought so. Thankfully, there are new technologies and solutions that can help your hard-working techs turn around instruments quickly and safely.

  • Improved washers. There's no shortage of washers designed to fit the efficiency-minded mentality of central sterile departments. The newest models promise to give you more capacity for instruments, better water efficiency and the ability to take on more instruments without adding time.
  • Low-temperature sterilization. Previously, ethylene oxide was the method used most often in the low-temperature sterilization of scopes and other delicate instruments. But the growing use of hydrogen peroxide and gas plasma sterilization now lets techs sterilize instruments more quickly than traditional methods. Some low-temperature sterilizers can even sterilize a non-lumened item within a half hour, whereas cycles previously could last for an hour or longer.
  • Better biological indicators. When you're sterilizing a load of instruments that includes an implant, which are often included in loaner trays used for joint replacements, you must quarantine those loads until the biological indicator shows that the sterilization cycle was completely effective. The indicators have improved in recent years, with rapid readouts available sooner and sooner. We've gone from being able to know if an instrument set is sterile within 3 to 4 hours of sterilization, to an hour or less, to some indicators even able to tell you within 24 minutes.
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