Instrument Contamination by Toner or Ink Not Significant

Study finds operating room use of printed count sheets and labels is not a cytotoxic hazard
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Contamination from ink or toner on printed count sheets and labels used to account for surgical instruments in the operating room does not pose a significant cytotoxic hazard, according to a report in the March issue of the AORN Journal.

Anne D. Lucas, Ph.D., of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Device and Radiological Health in Silver Spring, Md., and colleagues conducted an experiment in which they steam sterilized blank paper (control) and papers bearing 7.5-inch x 10-inch areas printed with Laserjet toner, copier toner or Deskjet ink. They tested for cytotoxicity by placing the paper with the heat-destabilized ink or toner in contact with either mouse fibroblast cells or human lymphoma cells. Neutral red assay and a propidium iodide-based assay were used to assess the increase in the percentage of dead cells after exposure. The process was repeated with similar papers on which were placed four sets of five stainless steel surgical instruments.

There was no significant cytotoxic response from the exposure of the stainless steel devices to ink, toner or labels, the researchers report. However, ink staining on the instruments was observed and it is hard to remove and can be harmful to the instruments, the authors write.

"This limited project indicates that the practice of using count sheets does not appear to pose an immediate health concern. However, it can be very difficult to clean some devices after they are steam sterilized in direct contact with printed inks and paper," the authors conclude.

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