Surgical instruments are medical tools designed to be used by specialists who perform different surgical tasks. There are various types of these instruments, from scalpels, scissors and forceps, to retractors, clamps and more, because surgical procedures are different and require specialized sets of instruments.
Considering the purpose of surgical instruments and the way they are being used on human and animal patients, their quality is absolutely essential and must always translate into being perfectly functional, clean and sterile.
Factors that influence the quality of surgical instruments
- Materials the instruments are made from
There are different alloys used in the manufacture of surgical instruments – stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum or titanium. Obviously, no such instrument should be made from regular metals. These special alloys have particular properties that contribute greatly to the manufacture of quality surgical instruments.
Let`s learn a bit more about the two most popular materials used for surgical and ortho instruments: stainless steel and titanium
Stainless Steel – It is also known as inox and is pretty common. However the stainless steel used in the manufacture of surgical instruments is made of 316 steel, which is known more commonly as “surgical steel”. This metal is highly resistant to corrosion and salt, being also commonly used for body piercing jewelry and all kind of biomedical implants. Stainless steel is also temperature resistant (up to 400°C), so it can be sterilized at 180°C. In terms of strength, stainless steel is almost as strong as carbon steel, which makes it an excellent option for manufacturing surgical instruments.
Titanium – A very strong metal and resistant to the action of very corrosive substances such as chloride, nitric acid, saltwater and other chemicals, both industrial and organic. It is also lightweight and flexible (lighter and more flexible than inox!). Titanium does not change its dimensions significantly when heated or cooled, so surgical instruments made of titanium are very durable and the first choice for MRI applications and corrosive environments.
- Cleaning, sterilization and maintenance
All surgical instruments, textile materials and other objects or solutions that penetrate into the tissues or vascular system must be sterile. First, they must be cleaned by physical methods and chemically disinfected before undergoing a standardized sterilization process. The cleaning process consists in removing organic and inorganic dirt of their surface. Cleaning is followed by disinfection, using a special disinfectant and the preparation of the instrument for sterilization.
Sterilization can be done by dry heat or humid heat. Usually, in hospitals, a vapor pressure device (autoclave) is being used to sterilize not only surgical instruments, but also soft inventory, drainage tubes, probes, rubber gloves etc.
The inspection of surgical instruments is another part of the regular maintenance cycle. Structural and functional features must be checked and tested all the time to ensure the quality of the instruments. Things to look for include the proper alignment of the instrument, corrosion, cracks, dents, sharpness of the cutting edges, loose set pins, missing parts and more. These factors are generally important to look for, but each instrument functions differently and has its own testing protocol.