Your first-line-of-defense against preventing surgical instrument corrosion is the passive oxide layer of Surgical Instruments Stainless steel surgical instruments are made of corrosion resistant high-grade specialty steels. Corrosion resistant does not mean corrosion proof. One of the special characteristics of these steels is that the manufacturer forms a passive oxide layer on the surface, which protects them against corrosion. This makes surgical instruments as corrosion resistant as possible. It is imperative that you maintain the passive oxide layer to prevent corrosion and maintain your surgery instruments in optimal condition. If this is not done the stainless steel will be more susceptible to corrosion, pitting and stains.This will reduce the life of the surgical instrument and/or render it useless. Initially, all stainless steel surgical instruments have the same corrosion resistance. When strength and hardness requirements are important factors for instrument function, corrosion resistance is generally lower. Increasing the corrosion resistance would soften the stainless steel. Manufacturers of surgical instruments and surgical instrument containers recommend the use of neutral pH cleaning concentrates. Newly developed neutral pH Enzyme Surgical Instrument Detergents have been shown to be effective in optimizing the efficacy of the passive oxide layer. This will provide a longer life for stainless steel surgical instruments. Cleaning concentrates with a high or low pH have been shown to erode the passive layer. The most common of these cleaning concentrates utilize an alkaline detergent with an acid neutralizer.
More information and studies regarding the passive oxide layer of Surgical Instruments is below. Interpreting Rust Yellow-brown to Dark-brown Stains or Spots Yellow-brown to dark-brown stains or spots on surgical stainless steel instruments are frequently mistaken for rust. These residue deposits (stains or spots arranged in groups or along edges or in crevices) are usually the instrument being exposed to result of high chloride content. They will lead to pitting of the surgical instrument surface if not removed. (see Avoiding High Levels of Chloride below) Excessively hard water can contain high levels of salt sufficient to cause stains or spots that appear as rust. Boilers used to generate the steam for steam sterilizers, if not cleaned properly, will produce contaminated steam which can deposit minerals onto instruments during the sterilization process.
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