An expected outcome for all surgical patients is that they are free from the signs and symptoms of infection. Today, surgical site infections (SSIs) represent an important health care concern, because they are a source of patient morbidity and mortality and a contributing factor to increased health care costs. A key strategy for reducing the risk of SSIs is the provision of surgical instruments and other devices that are free from contamination at the time of use; an important aspect in implementing this strategy is appropriate packaging of the items for sterilization. As a barrier material used in the perioperative practice setting, sterilization wrap must provide an effective barrier to microbial penetration, protect the packaged items from contamination during handling, and allow aseptic delivery of the contents to the sterile field.
Because the materials used for sterilization wraps continue to evolve, all members of the perioperative team should be aware of the various products available today in order to select and use them properly. Personnel should also understand proper handling techniques for sterilization wrap and wrapped operating room (OR) trays to protect patients from developing SSIs. This continuing education activity will provide a brief overview of the clinical impact and economic burden of SSIs today.
The key characteristics of sterilization wrap materials that help reduce the risk for SSIs, with a focus on nonwoven double layer sterilization wrap, including test data that should be obtained from the manufacturer, will be reviewed. Clinical considerations related to proper care and handling techniques for sterilization wrap and wrapped OR trays, based on professional standards and recommended practices, will be discussed.