What Is The Shelf-Life Of Medical Instruments That Have Been Autoclaved?

By dewi susanti

Many different organizations have addressed the issue of the shelf life of medical instruments that have been autoclaved. The truth is that particular shelf-lives for sterile medical items after they have undergone autoclaving are not really provided by organizations such as the CDC and the JCAHO. Currently, healthcare facilities are recommended to develop policies so that “event-related” shelf-lives can be established for the autoclaving of medical instruments.

Autoclaved Medical Instrumentsents

Autoclaved Medical Instrumentsents

In 1983, recommended storage times for various sterile packs were published by the CDC. Those recommendations are still followed by many healthcare organizations However, the recommended shelf-lives are considered too short by many due to which a lot of manpower, supplies, and time is wasted.

Many widely accept the concept that sterilized medical items should have an event-related shelf life. With this approach, it is acknowledged that autoclaved medical instruments have an indefinite shelf life and will remain sterile, unless they become contaminated due to an external event, such as torn or wet packaging. This concept has been supported by various studies.

Either a date-related or an event-related policy should be chosen by a healthcare facility in order to manage the process. There should be a written policy in every healthcare facility so that the shelf-life of packaged sterile items can be addressed on the basis of the amount of handling, conditions during transport, quality of the wrapped material, and storage conditions. Care needs to be taken during the processing of autoclaved instruments so that contamination of the instruments can be avoided during storage. To preserve the package, the instruments should be stored in a proper way. Before using, the dryness and integrity of packages should be ensured by examining them.

Recommendations On How To Store Autoclaved Medical Instruments

  1. Packages should be allowed to dry in the autoclave prior to handling so that contamination is avoided.
  2. Packaged sterile instruments should be stored in clean, dry, dust and lint free area (closed or covered cabinets are recommended).
  3. Clean and sterile materials should be stored at a height of 8 to 10 inches high from the floor and 18 inches under the ceiling.
  4. Items should be kept together–clean with clean and sterile with sterile.
  5. Stock should be rotated, using older items first.
  6. Storing sterile supplies on the floor, on windowsills, under sinks or locations prone to become wet, or any other supply areas other than designated cabinets or shelving should be avoided.
  7. Sterile supplies should not be stored with items not intended for clinical use, such as cleaning or office supplies.
  8. Sterile packages should not be handled unnecessarily so that contamination can be avoided.
  9. should be a mandatory practice to evaluate autoclaved items stored and not in use within 12 months.

Monitoring Methods

When it comes to the processing and sterilization of instruments, patient safety can be ensured by using three methods of monitoring, namely biological, chemical and mechanical.

In biological monitoring, the most resistant microorganisms are used as a result of which the chemical and physical conditions essential for sterilization can be tested. Biological indicators are acknowledged as being the ideal monitors of autoclaving and sterilization.

In chemical monitoring, each package has an affixed chemical indicator through which the processing of the package through the sterilization cycle is demonstrated.

In mechanical monitoring, the cycle time and the temperature of each load is monitored. It involves the recording and tracking of the pressure and temperature of each load.

Thus, the bottom line is that it is most logical and rational to consider the shelf-lives of autoclaved medical items as date-related or event-related.


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