The importance of sterilization for surgical tools

By MWI Animal Health

The risk of veterinary patients developing an infection after a surgical procedure has always been a source of concern. That’s why it is essential to train veterinarians and their assistants about sterilization techniques.

Infection risk after surgery was confirmed by data published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, which wrote that 13 percent of surgical instruments in a small sample subject to cold, sterile solutions showed signs of opportunistic pathogens and other bacteria. Procedures such as patellar luxation, lateral suture, femoral head osteotomy, and orthopedic surgical procedures should use top-notch sterilization methods.

What is Sterilization?

Sterilization is a standard procedure for disinfecting surgical instruments like orthopedic drills and saws.

Using an autoclave to sterilize surgical equipment and supplies is straightforward.  Simply place the material to be sterilized inside the autoclave chamber. After that, the autoclave subjects its content to pressurized saturated steam that reaches a temperature of 121 °C (250 °F). In essence, the sterilization process uses temperatures that are higher than the boiling point of water. This procedure can take between 20–90 minutes, depending on the size of the autoclave chamber and the materials being sterilized.

Although most veterinary clinics own autoclaves, the types they use are mostly tabletop models, about the size of a microwave oven. Therefore, these clinics are compelled to sterilize medical devices in small batches. This makes the procedure tedious and time-consuming. Another practical option is to implement additional sterilization methods such as sterilized covers for surgical instruments.

How to Sterilize Surgical Instruments in a Veterinary Setting

There is a need for in-depth training of veterinary staff on the procedure for sterilizing surgical instruments. For instance, they should understand that it can take up to 10 hours after completing the above steps for a surgical instrument to become fully sterile. A medical device must sit long before a surgeon can use them again. 

The first step in ensuring proper sterilization of surgical instruments is the proper cleaning of the surgical instrument after use.  Wash all biological debris and dirt from each piece within 30 minutes after the end of the surgical procedure. The most effective washing method involves placing each instrument separately under running water while holding onto it and opening and closing it as the water runs over it. To ensure all contaminants loosen and fall off the instrument, use a brush with hard plastic bristles while the device remains in distilled or demineralized water with a neutral pH factor. This prevents substances containing protein from binding together.

If the cleaning process makes the surgical instrument stiff while attempting to open and close it, spraying lubricants on every surface of the tool, including the joints, should help. Stiffness is typically the result of impurities such as mineral deposits creating corrosion when two metal surfaces touch each other.

Be sure to avoid the use of detergents containing enzymes during the sterilization process since it can damage the instruments. Lastly, avoid using any solution containing benzium ammonium chloride if the tool undergoing sterilization contains tungsten since these substances interact poorly with each other.

Before moving onto the final stage of sterilization, it’s essential to inspect and ensure that all surgical instruments are clean and functioning correctly. Each tool should be pointing upward in the open position at the start of the sterilization autoclave process. This makes it possible for the steam to reach every surface of the surgical instrument. Manufacturer directions should specify the proper temperature, pressure, and duration of the cycle for each type of surgical instrument.

After completing the sterilization of each instrument, dry it immediately to prevent it from degrading, but don’t use dry heat. Each device already out of its package should go into storage in an area that is warm and dry. 

Sterilization Covers for Orthopedic Drills and Saws

Although most orthopedic drills can be 100% antiseptic, getting them sterilized for the next surgical procedure is time-consuming. That is why Arbutus Medical developed the surgical orthopedic DrillCover in 2014. With a DrillCover, you can avoid waiting hours between surgeries. A sterilized drill cover allows you to autoclave just the linen itself without the need to sterilize the drill. By stocking two autoclavable covers for the drill the orthopedic surgeon is able to perform back to backs in less time between surgical procedures.

Arbutus then developed the SawCover System, which is ideal for TTA and FHO procedures and completes the Arbutus Medical power equipment line for osteotomy, amputation, arthroplasty and other applications. The SawCover System consists of a durable hardware saw that is fully sealed by the SawCover linen. This creates a 100% sterile, battery powered, liquid and pathogen proof oscillating saw at an affordable price. The saw is fitted with an ergonomic pistol-grip handle and trigger mechanism with handling matching that of surgical orthopedic saws.

The more recent Arbutus DrillCover PRO allows for exceptional precision, which is important if dealing with small and fragile bones, cannulation, switching between reaming and drilling modes, and quick exchange of half-moon shaped AO drill bits as well as Hudson or Zimmer quick-connect drill bits and reamers.

These are efficient ways to get rid of the autoclavable requirement for your orthopedic drill or saw and still enjoy the benefits of a 100% sterile surgical tool. 

For more information about Arbutus Medical products please email the Securos Sales Team.