Choosing sterile barrier systems: a holistic approach

As the healthcare sector faces increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact, sterile services departments are debating the relative advantages of flexible sterile wrap versus reusable rigid containers. Choosing a sterile barrier system is a major decision and can only be made after weighing all the relevant factors. Karina Engels provides an insight into the key considerations.

While sustainability is important and should be part of the design of any sterile barrier system, it cannot be the only factor considered when choosing sterile packaging systems. One must also consider such factors as usability, space, costs and, above all else, patient safety.

When it comes to choosing the right sterile packaging system, patient safety must be the primary determining factor. The European Centre for Disease and Control (ECDC) estimated that in the period from 2016 to 2017, 3.1 to 4.6 million people acquired a healthcare-associated infection (HCAI) during that period, in acute care hospitals, in EU/EEA countries.1 HCAIs can lead to increases in patient morbidity and mortality, with more than 90,000 people dying every year in the EU/EEA due to the six most common infections in healthcare settings.2 Furthermore, HCAIs account for a significant cost to the healthcare sector, representing up to 6% of public hospital budgets.3

Maintaining a sterile environment starts with sterile barrier systems (SBS). Various methods are used for sterilising surgical instruments. SBSs are used to enclose and maintain the sterility of instruments until the point of use and to allow for aseptic presentation.4 SBSs include heat sealable pouches, synthetic disposable wraps and rigid containers.

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