Single Use Surgical Instruments

The introduction of single use surgical instruments for dental and minor surgery
procedures, derived from the enforcement of new EU policies put in place in April
2007 to ensure patient safety and infection control.

It was proposed that all instruments should be considered for single use only and then
disposed of, as certain contaminations were found to survive the sterilisation process,
namely the very "sticky" prion associated with CJD. With the more recent advent of
vCJD coming to the fore, it is felt that a greater percentage of the population could be
carrying this infection, without exhibiting any of the outward symptoms which are
normally associated with this horrific disease. This in turn is increasing the theoretical
risk of cross contamination, as non-infected patients could be operated on with
reusable surgical instruments that have been previously used on patients with vCJD.

By definition, single use surgical instruments are considered clinical waste and should
be disposed of in accordance with clinical waste laws. In some areas free collection of
clinical waste is available, yet in others specialists are required to remove and destroy
the waste caused by single use surgical instruments.

As single use surgical instruments are traditionally made of steel that can be recycled,
those which are to be recycled can be re-sterilised to eliminate their clinical waste
status.