Maintaining Sterility During Transport and Storage
Utmost care is taken in the CSSD to clean, check, assemble, pack and sterilize instruments sets, bowl packs, gown packs and linen. It is essential that these items are then transported and stored in such a manner as to maintain sterility. According to Nancy Chobin, sterility maintenance is directly affected by packaging materials, storage methods and conditions, handling practices, and methods of distribution.1
We need to do our utmost to transport and store our sterilized items as safely as possible to maintain sterility and extend the shelf life. Shelf life is defined as “the period of time during which a sterile item is considered safe to use”. 1
Shelf is event related, not time related. This means that the probability of a sterilized pack remaining sterile is dependent on a multitude of factors relating to how it was handled, transported and stored.
Packs can be physically damaged (develop tears and holes) by excessive or rough handling. Packs with tears and holes become contaminated as airborne bacteria and dust can penetrate them, hence the need to transport then safely with crushing them one on top of another. It can be a challenge for us to determine if the sterility of a pack has been compromised as often there is no obvious damage.