Sterility assurance: A focus on packaging


Infection prevention for the surgical patient has taken on greater significance today in the face of new pathogens and multi-drug resistant organisms, as well as the increased economic pressures to reduce healthcare-associated infections. A key measure in reducing the risk of infection during an operative or invasive procedure is to provide surgical instruments and devices that are sterile at the time of use. In order to assure their sterility, surgical instruments and other medical devices must be packaged appropriately prior to sterilization. Sterilization wrap or packaging material must provide an effective barrier to microbial penetration and also protect the packaged items from contact contamination during handling. Therefore, perioperative personnel involved in the use, care, and handling of sterile surgical items must remain aware of the relationship between proper packaging and sterility assurance of the packaged items.

This continuing education activity will provide a review of sterility assurance with a focus on packaging. A brief overview of the impact of surgical site infections will be presented. Sterility assurance as it relates to the various sterilization processes and sterile packaging will be discussed. Key criteria for the appropriate selection and use of packaging materials will be reviewed, followed by various professional guidelines for best practices related to packaging. The types of sterilization wraps will be described, highlighting the advantages of double-layer wraps for simultaneous wrapping. Finally, troubleshooting techniques to avoid and resolve wet packs will be outlined.



Upon completion of this continuing education activity, the participant should be able to:

  1. Define sterility assurance as it relates to the various sterilization processes and sterile packaging.
  2. Identify key criteria for appropriate selection and use of packaging materials. 
  3. Discuss guidelines provided by various professional associations regarding best practices related to packaging items for sterilization.
  4. Differentiate the types of sterilization wraps.
  5. Describe wrapping methods when packaging items for sterilization.
  6. Describe the advantages of double-layer sterilization wraps.
  7. Describe troubleshooting techniques to avoid and resolve wet packs.


Intended audience

This continuing education activity is intended for use by perioperative nurses, surgical technologists, central service personnel, and other healthcare professionals who are interested in learning more about sterility assurance as it relates to packaging and key considerations in the selection and use of sterilization wraps.

Content shown provided by Pfiedler Enterprises. Full references are available within the CE program, accessible via the link above.