Common Sterilization Risks Clinicians Should Be on the Lookout For

A medical practice must enact routine sterilization procedures in order to safely use reusable medical devices; however, there are specific risks associated with modern chemical sterilization. More specifically, excess chemicals can pose risks to staff members and patients during the sterilization of reusable speculums and reusable batteries. Common sterilization, also known as reprocessing, risks can include:

Contamination due to improper practices – A reusable speculum’s intricate design features unique crevices, bolts, and openings. As soon as a reusable speculum is used on a patient, biological debris will easily hide within these areas. Therefore, chemical sterilization must take place between each reusable speculum or reusable battery’s use. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Inadequate cleaning between patient uses can result in the retention of blood, tissue, and other biological debris (soil) in certain types of reusable medical devices. This debris can allow microbes to survive the subsequent disinfection or sterilization process, which could then lead to Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs)… [and] other adverse patient outcomes such as tissue irritation from residual reprocessing materials, like chemical disinfectants.”

Consumption of harmful chemicals – Most detergents and solvents used to “reprocess” reusable medical devices often contain harsh chemicals, like ethylene oxide. If staff members are using detergents with ethylene oxide to sterilize reusable speculums or batteries, they are subjecting themselves to hazardous chemicals. Ethylene oxide, among other sterilization chemicals, is damaging to one’s health when consistently exposed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests “chronic (long-term) exposure to ethylene oxide in humans can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and damage to the brain and nervous system.”

Environmental exposure to chemicals – Chemicals used during sterilization, like ethylene oxide, can compromise the safety of a medical practice’s general workspace, as the chemicals can reduce air quality. If materials for sterilization are not stored in a secure location, other public areas can unintentionally be exposed to the harmful effects of sterilization chemicals.

Harmful consequences to excess sterilization practices can be significantly reduced by opting for single-use, disposable speculums. Disposable speculums do not have to be “reprocessed” before or after use. Chemical exposure will be minimized, and staff members can focus solely on completing the vaginal examination at hand. Clinicians will use the speculum once on a single patient. Once used, the physician can safely dispose of the device. Clinicians and patients can trust that a single-use, disposable medical device is currently the least risk-averse speculum on the market.

The SpecuLume EZ, designed by Cyalume Medical, is a single-use speculum featuring revolutionary chemiluminescence. The device, its chemiluminescent light insert, and its corresponding packaging can be safely discarded in a clinical waste container after one use. No disassembly is needed. For more information regarding the benefits of single-use, disposable speculums, please visit Cyalume Medical.

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