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Archive June 2016 XVII, No. 6

Thinking of Buying ... Rigid Sterilization Containers

An open-and-shut case for bypassing blue wrap.

John Meggs, MSC, CRCST

BIO

When instrument trays show up in the OR with torn, sliced or otherwise compromised blue wrap, it's a major source of frustration. Not just for the surgical teams who see their preparations and start times delayed, but also for the sterile processing technicians who have to rewrap and resterilize the instruments.

In our sterile processing department, we tried different kinds of wrapping and padding to cut down the number of compromised trays, but rigid sterilization containers really caught our attention. We were set to undergo a top-to-bottom renovation, so why not piggyback a switch from blue wrap to rigid containers onto it?

Solid benefits
The use of reusable hard cases as an alternative to single-use polypropylene blue wrap for instrument sterilization and storage doesn't require a multi-million-dollar facility upgrade, though. While implementing the containers involves an upfront investment in new equipment, it carries a multi-faceted payoff over the long term.

Placing trays of instruments to be sterilized into sealable stainless steel or anodized aluminum containers provides an assurance of infection prevention, since there's no worry that the outer protection will tear as it's shelved, pulled or transported. You're also eliminating the staffing time and supply cost of blue wrap, not to mention the disposal cost and environmental impact of the waste it generates.

Keeping in mind
You'll want to keep a few factors in mind if you're planning to make the switch from blue wrap. First, there will be a size difference, since rigid sterilization containers tend to be bulkier than wrapped trays. Will your sterilizer be able to accommodate the same number of trays during a normal cycle? Also, will your storage room require expanded shelving to hold the metal cases?

Functional compatibility is another concern. Sterilization guidelines from AORN, AAMI and other groups emphasize the importance of making sure that an instrument and its packaging can be properly sterilized by a given method, and that the method is suitable for the instrument or packaging. Is your sterilizer validated for the container you're considering, and vice versa? How much time does it take to complete a cycle?

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