Archive July 2017 XVIII, No. 7

Thinking of Buying ... Fluid Waste Management Systems

Your options in hard-plumbed and portable direct-to-drain systems.

Kaeleigh Sheehan

How do you manage the potentially copious volumes of blood and body fluid that can be generated during surgery? Older fluid waste disposal systems used suction canisters to collect liquid waste. Staff would then discard the waste either by opening the canisters and pouring the contents down the drain, or by using chemicals to solidify the liquid, and then having it hauled offsite for treatment and disposal as regulated medical waste. There's also a third and decidedly more high-tech and cleaner way to dispose of fluid waste: direct-to-drain systems that forgo both pouring and solidifying. As we'll discuss, they can provide significant benefits in costs, safety and environmental impact.

A lot to consider
Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to all systems, so having a grasp of a significant number of variables can help determine which system makes the most sense for your facility.

For example, how much floor space is available in the OR? Does space always seem to be at a premium? How complicated would it be to plumb into the fluid management system? Are you doing a lot of orthopedic surgeries? If so, which systems have the capacity to handle the large quantities of fluid involved in total knees, total hips and other orthopedic procedures?

Do you want a system that's stationary and hard-plumbed into the sanitary sewer, or do you want one that's portable? Some systems have reusable canisters that can be disinfected; others have closed integrated canister systems. Some use disposable canisters that you can place in regular trash after they're rinsed with enzymatic cleaners. (Those may be less expensive than other systems, but they can't accurately measure fluid loss, if that's a concern.)

Pour alternative
Systems that require OR staff to manually pour contents down the drain may require the smallest capital outlay, but there's no question that they're also the most dangerous. We can speak from experience. We know of a nurse who was removing the suction tubing from a suction canister that hadn't been fully disconnected. The sudden change in pressure ejected the contents into her eyes, nose and mouth. Luckily, she wasn't injured, but it's the kind of experience you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

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