headerProperties images

How does your reprocessing team dry the devices they prepare?

Risks Associated with Residual Moisture

While it sounds like an easy task, the drying of medical devices, lumens and flexible scopes is a time-consuming process and requires additional tools and resources outside of your basic cleaning accessories. It is important for all reprocessing departments to promote the drying of their devices, because this directly relates to inhibiting microbial growth, and the prevention of biofilm formation.

Moisture remaining on the surface of a lumen or endoscope could inhibit the high-level disinfection or sterilization process that is to follow cleaning and inspection. Because moisture may dilute the high-level disinfectant itself or potentially reduce the effectiveness of the selected chemical. For example, hydrogen peroxide vapor and gas plasma sterilization cycles may abort in the presence of excess moisture, which in turn adds longer reprocessing times and increases the potential for delays. Ethylene oxide when combined with water forms ethylene glycol, also known as antifreeze, which can be very harmful and toxic. The importance of lumen and scope drying is directly related to the bacterial growth potential within that scope channel and accessories that come with the device. So not only do reprocessing professionals need the tools necessary but they also need the time to complete this critical step.

What is Instrument air?

Instrument air is compressed or powered air, that has had dust, dirt and other pollutants removed. In a healthcare environment, instrument air is used to power medical devices, such as a power drill or pneumatic saw. Sometimes instrument filtered air can also be used to calibrate medical equipment. In the sterile processing department, we use instrument air, dedicated for the use of drying our medical devices after cleaning and decontamination. To quality as instrument air, however, the air must be free of certain particulates, the air must also be free from oils, water, hydrocarbons and other substances that could cause any infection or be potentially hazardous to patients or hinder the sterilization process.

While manual drying could include the use of instrument air, manual drying, or even having a Dedicated drying cloth or wipe. All of these steps are critical contributors to a complete sterilization or disinfection process.

Drying Cabinet Variations in Healthcare

There are a variety of drying cabinets available, for both the laboratory setting healths cience field clinical settings, as well as sterile processing or reprocessing. The drying cabinet for healthcare can be definfed as a medical device that has been designed for the storage of flexible endoscopes or a medical device created to help in the drying process of products that circulates continuous filtered air through each channel, lumen within the cabinet. The selection of the right product for your department is based on utilization, throughput, department design as well as the inventory you are looking to dry. Regardless of the type of cabinet you are using, make sure to verify the following:


  • Temperature settings are adjustable and meet the requirements for your device inventory.
  • A timer is available or accessible to alert the time whe n the amount of required dry time necessary has been achieved.
  • Cross contamination is avoided, and the location of the drying cabinet ensures a unidirectional workflow.
  • Ensuring the attachments and cabinet is cleaned, or disinfected regularly to avoid the potential for bacterial growth.
  • The cabinet does not allow for moisture retention and filers are changed frequently.
  • Verifying all items that are placed inside the drying cabinet are approved to do so.


Understanding the proper utilization of drying aides

Drying aides are seen in a variety of forms and mostly implemented in the reprocessing of flexible scopes. While some manufacturers specifically recommend the use of a dedicated drying aide, it is still important to only use products that are approved in the instructions for use from that device manufacturer. Wiping medical devices after cleaning with alcohol or some form of low level disinfectant is recommended for only specific devices, alcohol can also help to remove endotoxins and facilitates drying. Many manufacturer instructions for use recommend the use of additional drying times, manual or mechanical flushing of lumens with alcohol because it binds to residual water and enhances evaporation. Some mechanical processors automatically flush the scopes with a 70% isopropyl alcohol, and others do not. Make sure to always follow the instructions of the device and equipment being used.

The following pointers can help you ensure you are working to dry medical devices properly and in adherence to recommended guidelines:


  • After cleaning , lumens and instruments should be rinsed using a critical water such as sterile or distilled . This rinse helps rinse away chemistries and any residual minerals or organic and inorganic substances.
  • Expelling the lumen rinse into a drain prevents reuse of the rinse water and prevents econtamination of the instruments with the debris that has been rinsed away.
  • Compressed forced air, should then be used to eliminate any residual moisture that can serve as a medium for microbial growth.
  • Instruments, devices and endoscopes should not be soaked in enzymatic cleaning solutions beyond the designated contact time.
  • Storage cabinets that are used should be cleaned and disinfected with hospital grade and EPA approved disinfectant when visibly soiled and on a routine basis.


Protecting the Patients & HealthCare Professionals

Reprocessing intricate medical devices is a very challenging, technical and skilled task. It is important for all reprocessing professionals to remember to take time during the drying of devices after cleaning and before storing. Ensuring that all sterilized or disinfected items are inspected before release and residual moisture is not present. We know this takes time, but it is how we guarantee the safety of our teammates as well as the safety of the patient’s life.