Veterans Affairs

Sterile operating room surgical draping system

Reduces nosocomial infections and workplace injuries related to the use of heavier equipment in the operating room

Medical & Biotechnology

A researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has recently invented a protective surgical draping system for heavy equipment used in sterile operating room procedures. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Cmdr. Joseph Cummings, center, a Navy doctor assigned to Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (NHCP), works alongside other surgical staff during a surgical operation. (Michael O’Day/Navy)

Safe patient care is the ultimate focus in hospital and operating room environments. The traditional paradigm is directed toward patient sterility with systems for covering the patient, in whole or in part, leaving only the body area to be treated exposed. However, there is often a need to manipulate and reposition a patient while in the operating room. Doctors and operating room staff risk occupational injuries when moving patients and sterile draping is disturbed. Non-sterile conditions lead to healthcare associated infections (HAIs). While some HAIs are on the decline, according to a 2016 CDC report, each day, approximately one in 31 U.S. patients contracts at least one infection in association with his or her hospital care.[i]

Current equipment drape systems merely comprise sheets of material that can be used to wrap around operating room equipment but cannot easily accommodate support structures built into patient lifting devices. A need exists for a system that will reduce HAIs, lower the number of healthcare worker injuries caused by heavy lifting, and allow for the utilization of otherwise unsterilizable equipment in the operating room.

Currently, the primary procedure for sterilizing powered equipment involves wiping down the equipment with manufacturer-recommended detergent or germicide and then drying the equipment with a lint-free cloth. Common methods of sterilization used in hospitals for cleansing non-electronic instruments include sterilization with steam/autoclave systems, chemicals such as bleach and peroxide, dry heat, and ethylene oxide gas. Radiation methods such as gamma-ray exposure, electron beam processing, X-rays, and ultraviolet rays can also be used to sterilize medical equipment.

Manual sterilization of heavy equipment is problematic, time-consuming, and costly. Some methods require the equipment be taken to a special area for sterilization; or, the sterilization equipment transported to the operating room equipment. Given the impracticality of re-sterilizing operating room equipment manually before each surgery, sterile draping for equipment is a viable solution.

Available for license is a polyethylene and polypropylene surgical draping system that allows for the use of large patient handling machinery that is otherwise not permitted in operating rooms due to sterility concerns. The drapes facilitate the holding, lifting, and positioning of the patient, whole body, or limbs while maintaining sterility. At the same time, operating room equipment is protected from exposure to surgical biowaste.


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