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Surgical Asset & Supply Consulting

Black box CSSD

Are you aware of all cost traps in your hospital?

Hospital managers sitting at a table in a training

Let’s talk about some facts 

Did you know...

…how high the costs for a single missing or malfunctioning surgical instrument can be?

Delays are the most common type of disruption in the OR and the main cause (55.2-57.9%) of delays is equipment failure, including missing or malfunctioning instruments. [1]

Info graph of instrument condition in a set

When a new tray has to be ordered during surgery, it takes approximately seven minutes until it arrives in the OR. [2] One minute of OR time costs up to US$ 37, [3] which means that one missing or malfunctioning instrument can cost up to US$ 259 only due to the delay it is causing – in addition there are the costs for the waiting surgeons and nurses.

Info graph of additional costs of missing or broken surgical instrument during OR

…that many instruments within a set are never used during surgery?

The instrument utilization rate often is as low as 13% due to overloading of sets. [2] After surgery, all devices should be reprocessed, even if they were not used.

Info graph of the instrument utilization rate of 13 %

This causes significant unnecessary costs for health institutions, considering that the total reprocessing costs per instrument exceed US$ 0.51. [2] The reprocessing not only costs money and personnel resources, but also shortens the lifespan of the device. Another problem of overloaded sets is that the rate of broken, and thus unusable, instruments increases with the number per set. [3]

Info graph of reprocessing costs per instrument

…that pinholes in soft wraps threat the hospital’s finances and patient’s health?

Surgical instruments and sets are often packed in soft wraps, which are prone to pinholes if they are not handled appropriately, for example when being stocked. When pinholes or tears are detected, the whole set is considered as non-sterile and requires reprocessing. On average, 5% of wrapped instrument sets are reprocessed due to tears. [4] Damaged sterile packages can cause OR downtimes and time pressure. Moreover, holes in wraps might appear inconspicuous and could be overlooked. This case represents a serious risk factor for surgical site infections (SSIs).

Info graph of pinholes in soft wrap means non-sterile and increase risk of SSI

…how instrument sterilization correlates with surgical site infections?

Instruments that are sterilized insufficiently can lead to SSIs. 2-5% of all patients undergoing surgery develop this kind of infection [5] – for abdominal surgeries, the percentage is even five times as high. [6] A study showed that a sudden increase of the SSI rate in the orthopedics and ophthalmology wards in an NHS hospital in Glasgow could be traced back to poor handling practices in sterilization. [7] In 3% of all SSI cases, this complication leads to the death of a patient. [8]

Info graph of surgical site infections

On average, a patient suffering from an SSI has to stay in the hospital for ten additional days, causing additional costs of US$ 21,000. [9] SSIs not only damage the hospital’s budget but also its reputation.

Info graph of the costs of additional 10 recovering days after a surgical site infection

…how important well-trained staff is?

In some hospitals, reprocessing cycles do not fulfill basic requirements of regulation, expert guidelines or state-of-the-art reprocessing practices. This is mostly due to the lack of training and leads to mistakes concerning the handling of items: For example, not detecting pitting corrosion on time during care and maintenance leads to a systematic corrosion affecting not only the instrument sets but also the whole reprocessing cycle including the equipment.

Info graph of no well-trained staff means mistakes in instrument cycle, not following reprocessing guideline and bad instrument condition

Black box CSSD – a potential cost saver

Young CSSD employee with a digital tray organizing management tool on his tablet
  • 0%

    of all surgical instruments are not suitable for use in the OR

Discover your saving opportunities 

What can be done to solve the problem in the central sterile supply department?

Value preservation & backup stock management

Ensuring the optimal functionality and availability of surgical equipment allows operations to go ahead as planned, avoiding delays, stress and costs. A professional high-quality repair management and a technical service that is reliable and always available when needed can help you to achieve a long lifetime and proper functioning of your instrumentation and thus preserves the value of your surgical sets. Moreover, guaranteeing that functioning devices are always available requires good backup management. This enables surgeries to go ahead as planned while other instruments require repair or maintenance.

Info graph backup stock management system

Set optimization

Our findings show that set optimization is a highly important and effective measure: Surgical sets are often overloaded. Sets can be optimized and adapted for a variety of surgical procedures. [11] Our experts in Set Consulting found that an average reduction by 22% for existing set structures is possible. [10] Considering that the reprocessing costs for one instrument amount to roughly US$ 0.51, [12] we calculated that the reduction of a 90-piece set to 70 instruments (by 22%) can save costs of up to US$ 408,000 per year. [10]

Info graph of instrument set before and after set optimization


In many markets, soft wraps are commonly used to pack sterilized surgical instruments but are very prone to pinholes or tears. Damaged packaging cannot guarantee sterility of the instruments and is a high risk for the patient’s health. By contrast, containerization does not only enable safer storage, but also easier handling as containers can be stacked and different lid colors allow for sorting by disciplines. Containers prevent contamination of sets and maintain sterility for at least 360 days. [13] One case study found that – compared to soft wrap packaging – on average US$ 190,000 can be saved per year by containerization. [14]

Info graph of cost savings in the CSSD by containerization
Staff training in the CSSD

Staff training

Well-trained staff is a crucial part of every department. CSSD staff need to know how to handle and maintain surgical sets. For instance, a poor handling praxis of sterilized surgical sets, not according to current guidelines, could lead to an increase of SSIs, which causes additional costs. In addition to that, professionally qualified staff that is able to promptly identify non-functional instruments and surface changes like pitting corrosion, and subsequently dispatch the corroded ones for repair, is needed to prevent a “worst-case scenario” of systematic corrosion. By ensuring that your team is aware of these things, you can help preserve the value of instruments, increase their life time and reduce costs for new purchases. [15]

Face CSSD challenges with Surgical Asset & Supply Consulting

Our consultants advise based on official regulations, international standards, and industry best practices in order to improve the various aspects and overall life cycle of instruments.

Read more

[1] Wong J, Khu KJ, Kaderali Z, et al. Delays in the operating room: signs of an imperfect system. Can J Surg 2010;53(3):189-95.

[2] Stockert EW, Langerman A. Assessing the magnitude and costs of intraoperative inefficiencies attributable to surgical instrument trays. J Am Coll Surg 2014;219(4):646-55.

[3] Childers CP, Maggard-Gibbons M. Understanding Costs of Care in the Operating Room. JAMA Surg 2018;153(4):e176233.

[4] Aesculap. Wrap to rigid.

[5) Anderson D.J., et al. Strategies to Prevent Surgical Site Infections in Acute Care Hospitals. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2008;29:51.

[6] Wick E.C., Shore A.D., Hirose K., et al. Readmission rates and cost following colorectal surgery. Dis Colon Rectum 2011;54(12):1475-79.

[7] Dancer SJ, Stewart M, Coulombe C, et al. Surgical site infections linked to contaminated surgical instruments. J Hosp Infect 2012;81(4):231-38.

[8] ECRI. Bioburden on Surgical Instruments: Patient Safety Advisory. Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting Sytem 2006(3).

[9] Lissovoy G de, Fraeman K, Hutchins V, et al. Surgical site infection: incidence and impact on hospital utilization and treatment costs. Am J Infect Control 2009;37(5):387-97.

[10] Aesculap statistics based on 345.890 analyzed instruments in 135 different hospital.

[11] Yoon S, Zygourakis CC, Seaman J, et al. Implementation and Impact of a Hospital-Wide Instrument Set Review: Early Experiences at a Multisite Tertiary Care Academic Institution. Am J Med Qual 2019;34(1):67-73.

[12] Stockert EW, Langerman A. Assessing the magnitude and costs of intraoperative inefficiencies attributable to surgical instrument trays. J Am Coll Surg 2014;219(4):646-55. 

[13] Aesculap. Sterilization Validation – STERILCONTAINER with Primeline Lids. 

[14] Practice Greenhealth. Greening the OR: Reusable Hard Cases for Surgical Instrumentation 2013.

[15] Amann B, Appel T, Bertram M, et al. Corrosion: an underestimated risk. Zentralsterilisation 2019(5):320-23.