Considerations for selection of single-use or reusable medical devices

When it comes to deciding between single use and reusable medical devices, registrants need to make informed decisions and consider the pros and cons of each. 

A medical device refers to any instrument or piece of equipment used in any practice setting to assess, monitor, diagnose and treat patients. Medical devices are often available both as single-use and reusable items. 

Single-use medical devices are designed to be used on one patient for a single procedure and immediately discarded. Reusable medical devices may be safely reused only after appropriate steps identified by the manufacturer instructions have been undertaken (e.g. cleaning, disinfection, sterilization).

The table below highlights key considerations to assist in making informed decisions regarding the medical devices and the potential risk to patient safety.

Table 1: Considerations for selection of single-use and reusable medical devices

ConsiderationSingle-use medical devicesReusable
Risk of infectionNonePossible
Waste productionIncrease in solid waste

Solid waste
Chemical waste

Available choicesMay be a limitationMore choices
Product durabilityMay be a limitation 
Reprocessing HR requirementsNot requiredRequired
Reprocessing education and trainingNot requiredRequired
Reprocessing process requirementsNot required

Process requirements are:

  • work instructions based on manufacturer instructions for use (MIFU)
  • documentation
  • packaging
  • material safety data sheet (MSDS)
  • chemical storage
  • monitoring (indicators (biological, chemical and physical indicators
Reprocessing physical spaceNot requiredRequired
Repairs and replacement partsNot requiredRequired
RecallsNot requiredRequired

For additional information, see the BC Ministry of Health’s Best Practice Guidelines for Cleaning, Disinfection and Sterilization of Critical and Semi-critical Medical Devices (2011).