Complex design of surgical instruments as barrier for cleaning effectiveness, favouring biofilm formation

L. K. O. Lopes, D. M. Costa, A. F.V. Tipple, E. Watanabe, R. B. Castillo, H. Hu, A. K. Deva, K. Vickery*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Inadequately reprocessed reusable surgical instruments (RSIs) may harbour infectious agents which may then be transferred to a suitable site for replication. Aim: To determine the cumulative effect of 20 cycles of contamination, cleaning (manual or manual followed by automated) and steam sterilization on high-complex-design RSIs used for orthopaedic surgery. Methods: New flexible medullary reamers and depth gauges were contaminated by soaking in tryptone soya broth, containing 5% sheep blood and 109 cfu/mL of Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC 25923), for 5 min. To mimic a worse-case scenario, RSIs were dried 7 h and subjected to either (a) rinsing in distilled water, (b) manual cleaning or (c) manual plus automated cleaning (reference standard), and steam sterilization. The contamination, cleaning, and sterilization cycle was repeated 20 times. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) was measured after cleaning procedures; microbial load and residual protein were measured following the 10th and 20th reprocessing, in triplicate. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to confirm soil and biofilm presence on the RSIs after the 20th reprocessing. Findings: Manual and manual plus automated cleaning significantly reduced the amount of ATP and protein residues for all RSIs. Viable bacteria were not detected following sterilization. However, SEM detected soil after automated cleaning, and soil, including biofilms, after manual cleaning. Conclusion: Soil and/or biofilms were evident on complex-design RSIs following 20 cycles of contamination and reprocessing, even using the reference standard method of cleaning. Although the depth gauges could be disassembled, biological residues and biofilm accumulated in its lumen. The current design of these RSIs prevents removal of all biological soil and this may have an adverse effect on patient outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e53-e60
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019


  • Biofilm
  • Cleaning
  • Colony count
  • Microbial
  • Sterilization
  • Surgical instrument


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