Every day, healthcare facilities’ sterile processing departments handle thousands of reusable surgical instruments and devices. The department reprocesses the used instruments so they are ready for the next surgical caseload. According to the CDC, critical items confer a high risk for infection if they are contaminated with any microorganism. Thus, objects that enter sterile tissue or the vascular system must be sterile because any microbial contamination could transmit disease. Without proper sterilization practices in place instruments with human tissue, bone, or other organic material in or on the treated instruments could be returned to the operating room (OR) and other procedure areas. The consequences can be disastrous for patients, staff, clinicians, and the organization. Significantly, patients are at risk of infections from dirty instruments used in surgery. Let’s take a look at our fourth principle in our blog series.


You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” It’s akin to a lesser-known saying, “Cleanliness significantly reduces the number of preventable medical errors that occur each year.” 


Research shows that these practices are the best methods for preventing Surgical Site Infections (SSIs):

  • Eliminate Immediate Use Steam Sterilization (IUSS).
  • Proper cleaning of reusable medical devices.
  • Sterilization process management.

The use of immediate-use sterilization decreased from 79% in 2010 to 7.5% in 2012. There was also improvement in incidence of surgical site infection, decreasing from 5.4% in 2010 to 1.4% in 2012.


Demand for highly trained sterile processing staff is increasing due to an emphasis on reducing Hospital-Associated Infections (HAIs) and Surgical Site Infections (SSIs).

  • In 2011, acute care hospitals experienced an estimated 722,000 HAIs.
  • To treat the top HAIs, the U.S. healthcare system spends $9.8 billion dollars every year.
  • One third of the top HAIs are from surgical site infections.
  • SSI increases the patient’s length of stay in the hospital by an average of 7.5 days.

When it comes to Medicare payments:

  • Hospitals with higher rates of infection will be financially penalized.
  • Hospitals with lower rates of infection will receive positive payment adjustments.

Download Four Principles of Advocating for Safer Surgery, an infographic featuring simple (yet critical) ways to improve patient safety during day-to-day operations.

About SpecialtyCare

SpecialtyCare is the industry leader in perfusion and intraoperative neuromonitoring, providing staff and resources to 1,100 hospitals and health systems nationwide. We offer services such as perfusion, ECMO, autotransfusion, sterile processing consulting, surgical assist, and complex instrument support. Our job is to make surgery safer, share innovation and research using our extensive knowledge base, and help your health system maintain standards of excellence and improve patient outcomes year after year. To learn more about our services, contact us today.