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Posted on 29 Jan 2019
Infection prevention and control
29 January 2019

Please be aware of the cross-contamination risk when using automated scalpel blade removers (SBRs). If you use SBRs, there are immediate actions you should take to ensure safe practice.

Immediate actions for health services

  • Conduct a site audit
    • Identify clinical procedural areas that use automated SBRs.
    • Risk assess the need to modify the use of automated SBRs based on type of clinical procedures that use scalpel blades.
  • Remind staff of best practice for scalpel blade removers:
    • Do not reuse scalpel handles once they have been inserted into a scalpel blade remover.
    • Dispose of single use handles correctly.
    • Do not manually remove blades.

Background

Our Infection Clinical Network was notified of a recent audit finding that identified the potential for misuse of automated scalpel blade removers (SBRs) in a podiatry clinic. Specifically, clinicians were using the same scalpel blade handle when replacing a scalpel blade mid-procedure.

Blood/body fluids and other microorganisms can potentially contaminate the blade handle as shown using UV light and fluorescent solution in the simulation below.

Scalpel blade handle in blade remover
Clean blade and handle inserted into aperture to remove scalpel blade – requires insertion about 10 cm into the unit.
Podiatry scalpel blade remover - after glitter bug contamination
Note fluorescent solution contamination at point of blade insertion.
Clean scalpel blade handle
Clean scalpel blade handle is now contaminated with fluorescent solution from the last scalpel blade and handle.

Best practice use of scalpel blade removers

  • If the procedure will require a change in scalpel blades, make sure you have a second sterile blade handle available.
  • Do not reuse scalpel handles once they have been inserted into a scalpel blade remover.
  • Do not try to manually remove blades.
  • At the end of a procedure:
    • appropriately dispose of single patient use handles
    • reprocess reusable handles according to AS4187:2014 Reprocessing of reusable medical devices in health service organisations.

More information

Infection Clinical Network

Infection.clinicalnetwork@safercare.vic.au

Page last updated: 29 Jan 2019