How certain medical instrument marking methods can enable the growth of microorganisms – and what to do about it

In order to make it easier to identify a medical instrument, many doctors use different marking systems.The methods in which medical instruments can be marked are quite strict, in order to prevent the spread of bacteria. For example, instruments cannot be engraved because bacteria can get stuck in the small holes and grow. The article “Instrument Marking Methods Must be Maintained Properly”, by Nancy Chobin, describes three different methods of marking medical instruments and how these methods still have disadvantages and need to be maintained.

medical instrument

Source: Wikimedia Commons

First method for marking a medical instrument

Firstly, instruments are often marked by different colored tapes, however, many healthcare professionals fail to realize that the tape on the instruments can harbour bacteria and must be very carefully maintained. The tape should be replaced as soon as it begins to chip, as those small tears in the tape could allow for microorganisms to grow. According to Chobin “All tape and adhesive residues should be completely removed and the instrument washed before it is re-taped.” It is also stressed that a sharp object should not be used to remove tape, as this could simply create small fissures on the instrument where bacteria could grow.

Two other methods for marking a medical instrument

There are two other methods for marking instruments that are considered “acceptable”; chemical etching and color-bonding. These methods also come with some disadvantages, such as color-bonded instruments also chipping sometimes, however, seem to be more “sanitary” than using tape.

Why is this important? The general goal of healthcare facilities is to improve the health of its patients, while at the same time controlling and preventing the spread of infections and contamination. This means that healthcare facilities should aim to prevent, at all costs, the growth of bacteria. In order to be able to do so effectively, healthcare workers must know where all sources of bacteria may come from.

Source: Infection Control Today. Vol. 21. No. 12. December 2017.