Packaging for sterilization should be suitable for the sterilization method used to ensure that the packaging material can be penetrated by the sterilization agent (e.g., water vapor). The packaging also provides protection during transport and storage. Proper packaging protects the sterilized goods from microbacterial recontamination during transport and storage. The packaging units are to be kept as small as possible and provided with labels indicating the contents, date of sterilization, use-by date, batch number, and sterilization indicator.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Understanding Proper Instrument Storage
The correct storage of processed instruments is important to protect them from environmental contamination. The major source of environmental contamination is airborne bacteria and viruses that settle on instruments and equipment. Critical instruments that must be sterile at the time of use must be stored bagged/wrapped until use. However, an efficient way to protect all sterilization critical instruments from environmental contamination is to bag them prior to sterilization and store them in the unopened bag/wrap. Critical instruments/items must be stored in a way that maintains the integrity of packs and prevents contamination from any source. Items required to remain sterile must not be stored in ultraviolet cabinets or disinfectants as these processes will compromise sterility. It is important that critical wrapped instruments are stored in a clean dry area and are subjected to minimal handling before use.
During storage, packs can be contaminated by:
A package is considered to be nonsterile when it:
Storage areas must be dedicated for that purpose only and be free of dust, insects, and vermin. For open shelving, all items must be stored above floor level by at least 250mm, from ceiling fixtures by at least 400mm, and protected from direct sunlight. This will facilitate environmental cleaning and allow unrestricted airflow and prevent heating and degradation of the packaging material.
Guidelines & Recommendations
The following recommended practices for the evaluation, selection and use of packaging systems for items to be sterilized were developed by the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN) Recommended Practices Committee.
These recommended practices are intended as guidelines adaptable to various practice settings.
For further explanation of these recommended practices, please visit www.aorn.org
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