Infection prevention for the surgical patient has taken on greater significance today in the face of new pathogens and multi-drug resistant organisms, as well as the increased economic pressures to reduce healthcare-associated infections. A key measure in reducing the risk of infection during an operative or invasive procedure is to provide surgical instruments and devices that are sterile at the time of use. In order to assure their sterility, surgical instruments and other medical devices must be packaged appropriately prior to sterilization. Sterilization wrap or packaging material must provide an effective barrier to microbial penetration and also protect the packaged items from contact contamination during handling. Therefore, perioperative personnel involved in the use, care, and handling of sterile surgical items must remain aware of the relationship between proper packaging and sterility assurance of the packaged items.
This continuing education activity will provide a review of sterility assurance with a focus on packaging. A brief overview of the impact of surgical site infections will be presented. Sterility assurance as it relates to the various sterilization processes and sterile packaging will be discussed. Key criteria for the appropriate selection and use of packaging materials will be reviewed, followed by various professional guidelines for best practices related to packaging. The types of sterilization wraps will be described, highlighting the advantages of double-layer wraps for simultaneous wrapping. Finally, troubleshooting techniques to avoid and resolve wet packs will be outlined.