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What is single-use?

Simple question, right? Well not really.

You may be surprised but the perception of what single-use means is sometimes misinterpreted in the medical profession. Not fully comprehending the correct handling process for your instruments can lead to severe implications for yourself and potentially grave consequences for you and others should infection occur.

Let us break it down for you.

What does it mean?

A single-use device (SUD) is a medical device that is only to be used on an individual patient during a single procedure. It is not to be reprocessed and used again, even on the same patient (you’re thinking of single-patient use – don’t worry, we’ll get to that later).

Single-use devices simply go straight into the appropriate bin after one use.

Why single-use?

Pressure for the medical profession to use disposable equipment stems from the emergence of blood-transmitted diseases like hepatitis in the 1980s. Cross-contamination in healthcare facilities snowballed as a public health concern and for this reason, the development and dependability on single-use equipment has increased.

Why do single-use items get reused?

The rising cost of healthcare in most countries has left many facilities feeling the pinch. The impressive quality of single-use items has tempted some individuals to reuse them in an effort to save money. Medical devices have at times been reprocessed both in-house and within outsourced reprocessing centres, despite their manufactured intent only for single-use. A desire to reduce waste has also been an argument for reprocessing these devices (another reason we strive to recycle!).

Why shouldn’t they be reused?

Studies have identified numerous hazards that could lead to risks for patients that would have reprocessed single-use items used on them. Just like the risks faced with devices intended for re-use, the key issues are inadequate cleaning, disinfection and/or sterilisation that could result in either a chemical or microbiological contamination. Chemical contamination of the device could evoke toxic reactions and microbiological contamination potentially leading to infection.

Reprocessing a single-use item can also change the material characteristics of the device. Fatigue, material alteration or embrittlement can all compromise the performance and result in patient injury.

What are the implications?

If a clinician is found reusing single-use items, legal liability for the device may be transferred from the manufacturer to themselves or their employer.

What identification markings should I look out for?

Minimum requirements for the identification of a single-use item would be either wording that states “do not reuse” or the synonymous terms “single-use” or “use only once”, or the symbol of the number 2 with a line through it:

*For added ease of identification our instruments have brightly coloured handles. Not only do they look great, but they are also instantly recognisable. They are also designed to deteriorate during reprocessing cycles to eliminate any risk of the instrument being used again. For any instruments made completely of steel such as our tweezers, we have added easy to spot blue handle tips to identify their intended purpose as a single-use item.

We know, so thoughtful.

So wait, what is single-patient use?

These items are devices intended for single-patient use, which means they may be used on more than one occasion for the same patient. These devices can be reprocessed between each use as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Example of single-patient use items:

  • Patient self-administered intermittent urinary catheters
  • Face masks for oxygen administration
  • Nebulisers

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If you have any more questions about the appropriate handling of our Single Use items, you can contact our friendly team at sales@sudinstruments.com.