Posted in | Medical Robotics

Research Shows Total Sanitation of Robotic Surgical Tools is Virtually Impossible

According to a research paper published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, it is virtually not possible to eliminate all contamination from robotic surgical instruments, even if a number of cleanings are performed.

The results reveal that total elimination of surface contaminants from these tools may be unachievable, even if manufacturers’ cleansing instructions are followed, thereby patients are at risk of surgical site infections.

One of the top priorities for hospitals is to treat patients safely and with minimal risk of infection. Our results show that surgical instruments could be placing patients at risk due to current cleaning procedures. One way to address this issue is to establish new standards for cleaning surgical instruments, including multipart robotic tools.

Yuhei Saito, RN, PHN, MS, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Tokyo Hospital

The research studied 132 robotic and ordinary instruments for a period of 21 months. Instruments were gathered directly after use to establish their level of contamination. The team used in-house cleaning techniques that included manual procedures with ultrasonication using the instructions provided by the manufacturers. Measurements of protein concentration were gathered from tools after three successive cleanings to determine changes in the total quantity of residual protein.

These tools had a higher protein residue and lower cleaning effectiveness compared to regular instruments due to the complex structures of robotic instruments.

The cleanings were 97.6% successful for robotic instruments and 99.1% successful for regular instruments. Consequently, the researchers propose that it might be essential to set up new cleaning standards that use repeated measurements of residual protein, rather than only measuring contamination after cleaning is done.

These instruments are wonderful tools that allow surgeons to operate with care; but completely decontaminating them has been a challenge for hospitals. By implementing new cleaning procedures using repeated measurements of the level of contamination on an instrument more than once, we could potentially save many patients from future infections.

Yuhei Saito, RN, PHN, MS, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of Tokyo Hospital

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