The Care and Handling of Rigid Containers

Learn to spot deficiencies in rigid containers that could compromise the sterility instruments.

It’s amazing walking into a decontamination area and having the opportunity to observe the usage of rigid containers that are still permitted to sterilize surgical instrument sets.

Rigid sterile containers aren’t viewed as a Class II medical device, many don’t take the time to inspect these devices for deficiencies that could compromise the sterility of the instrument inside. Weak handles, compromised seals, dents from dropping, non-optimal retention plates – Always inspect these items to ensure the rigid containers are in proper working condition, based on the manufacturer’s instructions for use.  Any damage to a container or observation component that is not up to par is reason to question the appropriateness of continued use.  The following list provides key components to the inspection process of rigid containers:

  • Dents and defects on container lids and bottoms will affect the proper seal of a container.  For example, a lid dented on the corner from an accidental drop will cause the seal to misalign from where it was originally designed.  This positions the lid improperly, forcing the bottom edge of the container into the seal causing the seal groove to become deeper than intended.  As the ‘bend’ is continuously force closed, the aluminum eventually becomes smoother, potentially causing the seal to create a gap or a deeper than normal groove, all of which can compromise the sterility of the set.
  • Filter Retention Plate Damage can cause misalignment or gapping between the containers bottom or lid creating an ineffective seal of the filter paper which can allow contaminates to enter the set.
  • Gasket or Seal Imperfections will not permit an effective sterile closure of lid to bottom. This should be inspected for cuts, tears, and adhesive damage to the seal.  Any existing damage to the seal is a reason to have the seal sent out for repair. 
  • Handle & Latch Damage can be instrumental in lid-to-bottom misalignment.  A loose or sloppy latch will decrease pressure necessary to hold the lid, seal, and bottom in a pre-designed and effective working relationship.  The lid should never be moved once the locks are in place and closed.  This would give absolute reasoning to remove the container from continued service for repair.

Without proper education on the care and handling of rigid containers, we will run the risk of compromising the sterility of any set.  We should always utilize the same diligence in the inspection of our rigid systems as we use in the inspection of our surgical instruments.  Make it a common practice!