Technological advancements in medicine have led to more precise and narrow surgical instruments intended to save lives and minimize recovery time. But often, the biggest threat to a patient is the bioburden and bacteria trapped inside the instrument from a previous patient.
Unclean Surgical Instruments CANNOT be Sterilized
As medical instruments have become more intricate, the same features that enable a surgeon to perform a minimally invasive procedure cause a nightmare for Central Sterile Technicians. Narrow lumens, bends, changing diameters, and other features common in modern surgical tools create barriers for manual brushing. Bioburden (including blood and other human residue) may become packed inside of instrumentation, creating a risk for infection and cross-contamination between patients. Although the instrument will be sterilized, the sterilization process is ineffective if bioburden is present.
These images show the interior lumens of surgical instrument AFTER they had been manually brushed and sterilized per the manufactures’ instructions. Often times, a sterile crust is formed over the live bioburden and can be peeled away or re-moistened; thereby exposing live bacteria.
In most industries, a cleaning process starts by defining how clean is clean? The process ends only after the items being processed are validated – meaning that they are checked to ensure that they meet defined standards.
When Midbrook began working with the healthcare industry to develop cleaning and decontamination solutions, we were surprised to learn that many of the cleaning methods used in healthcare settings lacked a final validation step. Rather, in healthcare, the focus seemed to be on the process – in other words, validation only answered the question of: were all steps followed correctly?
Simply following cleaning steps does not guarantee a clean outcome – especially since variations in soil content and soil level can exist from instrument to instrument. Furthermore, processes that rely on manual cleaning are subject to human variables and errors – missed steps, distractions, and mix-ups.
That’s why other industries focus on results. For decades, automated machinery has cleaned automotive and airplane parts with higher efficacy than hospitals clean surgical instruments. As surgical instruments become more complex, the healthcare industry should adapt technologies that other industries use to clean intricate parts. The results could reduce the transmission of HAIs from dirty surgical tools and save lives!