What are single-use medical instruments?  

A single-use instrument is a disposable device to be used on one patient during a single procedure. It may include blades, surgical cutting instruments, clamps, forceps, speculums, hooks, scissors and others as well as simple instrument kits. It is not for cleaning and reusing.  


So why are hospitals around the world switching to single-use? Here are some of the benefits they provide:  

  1. It is clean from being packaged in a single-use pouch. It gives confidence to the patient when they see the seal on the packaging.   
  1. Reduces cross contamination and hospital acquired infection (HAI) including surgery site contamination. Infections can undo a surgeon’s finest work and also put the patient at further risk. This would be a cost for the healthcare facility to bear and not to mention the knock on costs of treating the patient’s infection.  
  1. It is inexpensive because they are made of plastic or less expensive materials. They are cost-effective as there are no sterilisation or cleaning costs. Also, consider operating room costs. With reusable instruments, there are delays from damaged, missing or dirty instruments which contribute to delayed operations.   
  1. Reduce errors. Reusable instruments can get misplaced or go missing. They travel from storage to the sterilisation unit to the surgery room and back again and during several trips. Errors can also be made on tracking and record keeping of movement of instruments.   
  1. No wear and tear. A reusable instrument loses its efficacy and can even malfunction over a period of time. For example a blade is not as sharp as new on its 100th use.  
  1. There are no handling errors with single-use. With reusable instruments, staff are prone to not following manufacturer’s instructions, making mistakes during cleaning processes, incorrectly assembling instruments or not having enough sinks or other washing necessities. 
  1. Improved management. It allows a healthcare facility to manage supply of instruments in line with demand. There is also no risk of over usage as there is with reusable equipment. 


There is growing acceptance that single-use instruments are a viable alternative to reusable instruments. Simply put, risk of HAIs is almost eliminated and it is proven to be cost-effective, secure and convenient. It can greatly improve the quality of care a clinic is providing as well as positively impact a patient’s experience.