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CPT Medical


Sterilizing Your Surgical Tray

The sterilization process is the most crucial process in a medical laboratory. There are many ways to sterilize surgical trays without damaging the equipment. Sterilization is usually achieved when the following is applied to tools in the medical lab;

  • high pressure
  • heat
  • irradiation
  • filtration or
  • chemicals

In essence, sterilization seeks to accomplish the destruction and removal of any form of life that could be present on the surface of an instrument.

Sterilization Versus Disinfection of the Surgical Tray

There is a clear line of demarcation that should be understood between sterilization and disinfection. Sterilization kills, eliminates, or deactivates any form of the biological agent. Disinfection refers to the removal of dangerous biological agents that could cause disease in a human being. Simply put, there is a need for sterilization of the surgical trays especially in medical facilities.

You can use the following steps to sterilize your surgical tray;


You should wear proper attire including goggles, gloves and face masks before you begin the decontamination. This safety measure is a win for everyone since it protects all including “victims of the knife” from infections. You will then start by cleaning all surgical trays using water mixed with a detergent. Foreign materials can be eliminated using a specialized cleaning solution. You can use a mechanical cleaning machine to wash and dry the surgical trays.

The decontamination area should be separate but near the packaging area. The decontamination area should also be acute, which refers to having walls that separate it from other areas. The airflow of the decontamination area should direct contaminants far away from where you’re operating. In fact, experts recommend that the air in a decontamination area be changed at least six times an hour (Which translates to after every 10 minutes). It’s critical to inspect each item both visually and microscopically for thorough cleanliness before packaging them.


Pack all items in hard plastic containers after cleaning them. All other surgical instruments can be placed on a surgical tray to maintain the sterilization. You can include the following when using your own method of sterilized packing for surgical trays:

  • Sterilant Penetration Allowance
  • Contamination Protection During Handling
  • Microbial Penetration Barriers
  • Sterility Retention Post-Sterilization


Once you have finished packing, store the surgical trays and other instruments far away from the walls, ceiling, and floor to provide room for conducive air circulation and easy cleaning and monitoring. Do not store the surgical trays in a wet area since this can lead to contamination with microorganisms from the air or surfaces. It’s advisable to disassemble any equipment with moving parts during storage. The following are methods of sterility retention during storage;

  • Rigid Containers
  • Roll Stock/Reels
  • Peel-Open Pouches
  • Sterilization Wraps


Sterilization should be monitored periodically to test for contamination or failed sterilization. To accomplish this task, you can use mechanical monitors like temperature or pressure. If possible, you can also monitor how effective the sterilization process was for certain infectious materials and spores using biological indicators. You can also achieve monitoring through the use of chemical indicators that are sensitive to chemical components attached to the outside of packaging or heat.

Experts indicate that experienced professionals should do all steps in sterilizing surgical trays. Therefore, before sterilizing surgical trays, ensure you thoroughly understand the entire process. Also, designate each activity a separate yet controlled area when performing each step in the sterilization process.