Policy Number: 2011-041-v
Policy Title: Storage of Sterile Materials Used in Research Animals

POLICY: Items such as surgical instruments, needles, syringes, and blood tubes must be maintained in sterile condition in order to be safe for use. Some of these materials will have expiration dates applied by the manufacturer (e.g., syringes, needles, blood tubes), whereas others (e.g., surgery packs, individual surgical instruments) are often multi-use and are sterilized as needed.

For manufactured supplies, to assure sterility:

  • Do not use if protective covering is damaged, for example:
    • the plastic covering the needle hub is gone.
    • the syringe case seal has been broken.
    • the plastic wrap has been punctured.
  • Do not use on animals past the expiration date.
    • Use of expired medical supplies other than in terminal surgeries is not consistent with standards of veterinary practice.
    • OLAW and USDA expect us to follow standards of veterinary practice.
  • Do not use if materials have been wet or are visibly soiled, or have been stored improperly, such as under a sink or on the floor of a truck.
  • Store in closed containers if possible (e.g., closed cabinets, plastic tubs, zipper-lock plastic bags).

For multi-use supplies (e.g., surgical instruments), to assure sterility:

  • Sterile surgery packs or peel packs stored in open shelving are considered sterile for 6 months from sterilization date.
  • Proper storage of sterile supplies is in closed containers. All cloth/paper drape-wrapped packs stored correctly (e.g., in closed containers) are only good for one year from the date of sterilization until/unless an event causes them to become contaminated (see list below). Properly stored (e.g., in closed containers) unopened autoclaved or gas-sterilized peel packs are considered sterile indefinitely until/unless an event causes them to become contaminated (see list below).

    • Package is torn, punctured, or otherwise compromised.
    • Package is taken to an animal room (and if it is, it must be re-autoclaved).
    • Package has debris on the outside (e.g., blood, dirt).
    • Storage area has evidence of vermin/insects.
  • All packs must have sterilization dates to assure they can be identified in the event sterilization should fail (e.g., autoclave did not get up to proper temperature).
  • All packs should be inspected before use. When in doubt, resterilize before use.

References: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities. William A. Rutala, PhD, MPH; David J. Webber, MD, MPH; and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. CDC, November 2008

Author: V. Carter, J. Welter, RARC veterinary staff
ePublication Date: 8/6/2010
History: Amended 6/2011, 10/2013; Reviewed, no changes 9/2017