Debunking the main myths of disposable devices

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

A nurse in scrubs tapping a pen against her mouth while holding a clipboard.

The primary reason for creating disposable medical devices is infection control. When an item is used only once, it cannot transmit infectious agents to subsequent patients, thus improving patient safety and eliminating the risk of patient-to-patient contamination because the item is discarded. But, what about some other concerning factors around the industry of single-use devices such as cost, waste, and environmental issues? We take a look at each of these concerns and demystify each separately.

Myth #1: "Single-Use devices are more expensive than reusable ones"

Some people might think that single-use instruments are a waste of money. In fact, the truth is reusables end up being more expensive. There are many hidden costs that go hand in hand with reusables.

Even after following the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly, microscopic human remains can be lodged in medical devices. As a result, operating with improperly cleaned instruments puts patients at a high risk of surgical site infections (SSI), healthcare-associated infections (HAI), and cross-contamination. This means a reasonable cost for the hospital to reprocess the devices, plus cleaning microbicides and other items needed for disinfection, maintenance of devices, packaging costs, and human resources required in the process.

Conclusion: Disposable instruments are sterilized and individually packaged. They are meant for single-use and then discarded. Although this might seem wasteful, in the end, more resources and more money are spent on reusables.

Myth #2: "Disposable Medical devices generate more waste and ecological impact than reusable ones"

Hospitals around the world produce large amounts of medical waste in a year, mostly coming from operating rooms. “The U.S. healthcare system is the second-largest contributor to the 4 billion pounds of waste produced annually. As such, production of medical waste is one of the most critical factors to consider” when evaluating a medical device. However, for every problem, there is a solution. In many cases, as with the plastic used to make disposable instruments, it can be recycled. On the other hand, reusable instruments require thorough decontamination processes that need large amounts of water, disinfectants, detergents, specialized brushes, steam, and electricity to process them for re-use. Think about the ecological impact these detergents and disinfectants have on the environment. This should be equally measured when comparing single-use disposables that get recycled.

Conclusion: Even though the topic of biomedical waste may be a cause of concern, it should not be taken as a threat. More recycling options are being developed each day as environmental concerns continue to rise. Risk and spread of infection is, and should be, the most important issue for all healthcare professionals.

Each day, more healthcare professionals are switching from reusable instruments to disposable, single-use ones. Overall, single-use instruments are proving to be a highly attractive alternative; and a more cost-efficient and time-saving method to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of disease. Make the switch TODAY: