Laparoscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that uses long slender instruments that require much smaller incisions than conventional surgery. This leads to faster recovery times, fewer infections and shorter hospital stays. For these reasons, laparoscopy could be particularly advantageous to patients in low to middle income countries (LMICs). Unfortunately, sterile processing departments in LMIC hospitals are faced with limited access to equipment and trained staff and poses an obstacle to safe surgical care. The reprocessing of laparoscopic devices requires specialised equipment and training. Therefore, when LMIC hospitals invest in laparoscopy, an update of the standard operating procedure in sterile processing is required. Currently, it is unclear whether LMIC hospitals, that already perform laparoscopy, have managed to introduce updated reprocessing methods that minimally invasive equipment requires. The aim of this study was to identify the laparoscopic sterile reprocessing procedures in rural India and to test the effectiveness of the sterilisation equipment.
We assessed laparoscopic instrument sterilisation capacity in four rural hospitals in different states in India using a mixed-methods approach. As the main form of data collection, we developed a standardised observational checklist based on reprocessing guidelines from several sources. Steam autoclave performance was measured by monitoring the autoclave cycles in two hospitals. Finally, the findings from the checklist data were supported by an interview survey with surgeons and nurses.
The checklist data revealed the reprocessing methods the hospitals used in the reprocessing of laparoscopic instruments. It showed that the standard operating procedures had not been updated since the introduction of laparoscopy and the same reprocessing methods for regular surgical instruments were still applied. The interviews conrmed that staff had not received additional training and that they were unaware of the hazardous effects of reprocessing detergents and disinfectants.
As laparoscopy is becoming more prevalent in LMICs, updated policy is needed to incorporate minimally invasive instrument reprocessing in medical practitioner and staff training programs. While reprocessing standards improve, it is essential to develop instruments and reprocessing equipment that is
more suitable for resource-constrained rural surgical environments.