Safe transport and storage of contaminated and sterile items in Theatre / CSSD

Medical devices/surgical instruments are used throughout the hospital to perform procedures on patients on a daily basis. These procedures are performed in theatre, the ward, maternity and doctors rooms. Contaminated devices need to be transported safely to the CSSD to be decontaminated. Contaminated devices should be transported in a manner that will ensure the safety of the staff and other patients. For this reason it is best to transport contaminated devices in closed, durable, and easy to decontaminate trolleys. It is not acceptable to transport contaminated items on open trolleys only covered with a piece of linen. Linen is not impermeable and will not contain pathogenic soils and microorganisms.

Once medical devices/surgical instruments have been decontaminated (cleaned, packed and sterilized) they need to transported and stored in a sterile store. The Centre for Disease Control state in their guidelines that medical devices/surgical instruments that have been sterilized must be handled using aseptic techniques in order to prevent contamination.  A pack will only stay sterile if it is not exposed to any adverse events. It is difficult to say how long an item will remain sterile for on a shelf as contamination is event related. The chances of a pack becoming contaminated are greater if a pack is handled frequently (Rutala and Weber 2008). Other factors  that could compromise sterility include; poor storage conditions, conditions during transport and quality of packing materials (Mc Donnell and Sheard 2012). For this reason packs should be stored on shelves that are easy to clean and slotted to allow for adequate circulation of air. Sterile packs and sets should not be compressed. Sets should rather be stored one per shelf, and gowns, linen and bowl packs can be stored on their sides to prevent compression. They should be arranged in a manner that they are easy to locate and handling is reduced.

It is critical that contaminated and sterilized medical devices are transported in safe manner and stored correctly to prevent cross contamination, to protect the staff, the patients and to ensure sterility is not compromised.  

Mc Donnell, G. and D. Sheard (2012). A practical guide to Decontamination in Healthcare. United Kingdom, Wiley-Blackwell. 

Rutala, W. A. and D. J. Weber (2008). Guideline for disinfection and sterilization in healthcare facilities, 2008, Centers for Disease Control (US).