Difficult to clean devices: the case for single use

Not all instruments can be guaranteed clean, especially those with narrow lumens. Jon Blastland argues that single-use alternatives could help reduce the risk of surgical site infection.

During surgery, germs can be transferred into the surgical wound through various forms of contact – including microbial flora on the skin, the surgeon’s hands, the operating theatre environment itself, or contact with a contaminated surgical instrument – leading to increased risk of surgical site infection (SSI). In England, SSIs are one of the most common healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs), accounting for around 16% of all HCAIs.1

SSIs are a major cause of increased length of hospital stays, morbidity, and mortality. The rate of SSI also varies depending on the type of surgical procedure, with rates of less than 1% for orthopaedic procedures and rates of over 10% for large bowel surgery.2

However, as post-discharge SSI surveillance practices vary significantly between Trusts and SSIs often present after the patient has been discharged from hospital, it is widely acknowledged that reported figures are likely to be an underestimate. For patients, an SSI may mean many months in hospital, as well as additional surgical procedures. In addition, SSIs also present a significant financial cost to the NHS. Each infection is estimated to cost just over £10,000 per person, with deep-incisional SSIs costing an astounding £100,000 per patient.3

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