Setbacks of using defective surgical instruments

Surgical instruments and devices are the backbone of any surgical procedure. Therefore, it shouldn’t be spelled out that any healthcare establishment must prioritize their maintenance. Defective and inferior quality instruments can have both negative and severe consequences for the patients.

In 2009, a patient in a hospital in the United Kingdom went through heart surgery. Although the operation was successful, the patient suffered from an antibiotic-resistant infection, which was almost fatal. 10 more patients on whom the same surgeon operated, suffered from the same infection. Unfortunately, 5 of the 10 patients died. After investigation, it was revealed that the reason for the infections were bad quality surgical instruments.

The irregularities in surgical instruments are not always visible can only be recognized when magnified. Some of the standard features of a defected surgical instrument are as follows:

  • Sharp and jutted out guide pins on forceps which can cut through surgical gloves during use
  • Pitted and caustic metal which can lead to infections
  • Acute burs and metal pieces which can break, and enter a patient’s body and/or lacerate surgical gloves
  • Broken and/or remade surgical instruments which might contain and spread bacteria
  • Damaged screw heads

According to Tom Brophy, head technologist with Barts Health NHS (National Health Service), who was also a part of the above investigation stated that 1 out of 5 surgical instruments (approximately 20%) are jilted as they have defects and if used, can risk the lives of patients. He added that devices with blood and dried tissue remains are also a threat as they can cause infections.

Various stakeholders play a pivotal role in ensuring that doctors are not using defected surgical instruments in medical procedures. Firstly, manufacturers of the surgical devices must ensure that they are providing the users with clear instructions for cleaning and maintaining the products. Secondly, hospital employees should adhere to these instructions.

Additionally, another reason which is making rounds in the healthcare industry is that surgical instruments should be designed in a way which makes it easy to clean and sterilize them.

The utmost care of patients is always the top priority for any medical establishment. Appropriate checks and balances for the cleaning and maintenance of surgical instruments will go a long way towards achieving the same.

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