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Care and Handling of Surgical Instruments


Immediately after use, rinse instruments under warm or cool running water to remove all blood, body fluids and tissue. Dried soils may damage the instrument surface and make cleaning very difficult. Do not use hot water as this will coagulate proteinous substances.


Time, temperature, and agitation play important roles in the cleaning process. Time – the efficiency of cleaning chemicals is often time dependent Temperature – higher temperature cleaning solutions result in better cleaning Agitation – whether manual or ultrasonic, it is helpful in loosening the soil on the Surgical Blades of the instrument

A. Ultrasonic Cleaning

This is the most effective cleaning method. Ultrasonic cleaning is the result of cavitation. The vibrating sound waves create micron-size bubbles in the solution that grow with the alternating pressure. When they reach a resonant size, the bubbles implode creating a force that dislodges dirt and particles, even in the smallest of crevices. The use of an ultrasonic detergent greatly improves the rate of cavitation as opposed to plain water.

2. Use deionized water, if available.

3. Run ultrasonic cleaner for several minutes to degas the solution and obtain correct temperature.

4. Place instruments in open position into the ultrasonic cleaner. Do not allow instruments with sharp blades to touch other instruments. All instruments must be fully submerged.

5. Do not place dissimilar metals (stainless, copper, chrome plated, etc.) in the same cleaning cycle.

6. Instruments should be processed in the cleaner for 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Rinse instruments with water to remove ultrasonic cleaning solution and any remaining soils.

8. Dry instruments thoroughly with a clean towel. This minimizes the risk of corrosion and formation of water spots.

9. Use spray lubricant (WPI part number 500126) in the hinges to improve function of instrument.

B. Automatic Washer Sterilizers

Follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Lubricate instruments after last rinse cycle and before sterilization cycle.

C. Manual Cleaning

1. Use stiff plastic cleaning brushes. Do not use steel wool or wire brushes.

2. Use only neutral pH detergents. If not rinsed properly, low pH detergents may breakdown the stainless protective surface and cause black staining. High pH detergents may cause surface deposits of brown stains, which can interfere with the smooth operation of the instrument.

3. Brush delicate instruments carefully and, if possible, handle them separately from general instruments.

4. Inspect all instrument surfaces to ensure they are visibly clean and free of stains and tissue. Inspect each instrument for proper function and condition. Scissor blades should glide smoothly and the blades must not be loose when in closed position. Check that forceps tips are properly aligned. Hemostats and needle holders should not show light between the jaws, they should lock and unlock easily, and the joints should not be too loose. Check needle holder jaws for wear. Examine cutting instruments and knives to be sure their blades are sharp and undamaged.

5. Rinse instruments thoroughly under running water. While rinsing, open and close scissors, hemostats, needle holders and other hinged instruments to ensure that hinge areas are also rinsed.

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