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Using Instrument Nomenclature in CSSD

Updated: Mar 10, 2022


Consistency is key to accuracy when building instrument sets in the Central Sterile Processing Department (CSSD). Using ambiguous naming conventions for surgical instruments is a sure-fire way to ruin accuracy.


Operating Room staff have high expectations for surgical tray accuracy, and rightfully so. Incomplete or inaccurate trays cause delays in the operating room theater as well as frustrate the surgeon. Errors can have negative patient consequences. Both the OR and CSSD teams need to be on the same page to deliver high-quality care for the patient.


Unfortunately, sometimes when speaking about instruments, communications become a barrier. I can remember when my CSSD department received a call from the OR asking for a turkey foot instrument. At first, I had no idea what they were speaking about. I asked for more information and deduced that the instrument in need was a Lowman bone holding clamp. The improper description created an unnecessary delay in the OR. At another facility, I received a complaint regarding an improper Richardson retractor in the set. The tray call for a medium Richardson retractor. I decided to explore the complaint, so I took a Richardson retractor to the OR. I spoke with three nurses and asked what size retractor did I have in my hand. To my chagrin, I received three different answers, which were small, medium, and large.


The key to successful interactions is to get all parties on the same page. This is easier said than done. I also find that surgeons often don't know the true name of the instruments they are using. When building count sheets, use the instrument number from the manufacturer and the manufacturer's description of the instrument, but don't stop there. Work with your OR team on pet instrument names and find a way to build them into your count sheets. This will allow the OR team to identify the instruments correctly while also providing a cheat sheet to learn the correct description. Ensure the CSSD department staff also know the correct instrument descriptions and settle on describing instruments by the correct name when communicating needs. Using standardized naming conventions from instrument manufacturers helps drive accuracy and creates better patient safety. It also helps determine what instrument to purchase when replenishment is needed.



At Evolved Sterile Processing, our consultants have a greater focus on sterile processing. With our decades of experience, we will help you develop better processes and educational resources for your staff.

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