Common examples of reprocessing practices that do not meet acceptable standards

The following are some common examples of reprocessing practices, which do not meet provincial and national standards, or the manufacturer’s instructions. 

  1. Gauze and other woven fabrics are being sterilized by steam in a tabletop steam sterilizer (autoclave).

    A common practice amongst physicians is to purchase bulk unsterile gauze packages and include one or two as part of the wrapped procedure kit, which is then steam sterilized in its entirety. Gauze is not validated by the manufacturer for steam sterilization and cannot be successfully sterilized in a tabletop steam sterilizer.

    Appropriate practice: Physician offices must obtain individually packaged sterile gauze that has been sterilized by the manufacturer. Note: Manufacturer uses radiation or gas sterilization, not steam, to render the gauze sterile.
  2. Reusable metal ear syringes are being reprocessed by soaking in a chemical solution.

    Metal ear syringes are commonly used in the community-based physician office. Instances have been identified where physician offices are reprocessing their reusable metal ear syringes in a chemical soaking solution.

    Appropriate practice: All reusable semi-critical medical devices such as metal ear syringes that are validated for steam sterilization must be steam sterilized. Metal ear syringes cannot be reprocessed in a chemical soaking solution and therefore must be steam sterilized. Disposable ear syringe systems are also available as an alternative.
  3. Reusable nail clippers are not being sterilized between patient uses.

    Reusable nail clippers have the potential to penetrate skin when used on a patient and therefore are considered critical reusable medical devices. Best practice, including direction from the Provincial Infection Control Network of British Columbia (PICNet) document entitled Reprocessing of Equipment and Instruments Used in the Provision of Foot Care (March 2015), directs that foot care equipment such as reusable nail clippers and other nail care devices remain sterile until point of use.

    Appropriate practice: Nail clippers and other nail care devices must be packaged appropriately for steam sterilization and remain in their package, intact, until time of use.