sterilizing robotic surgical instrumentsA recent study performed by researchers in Japan has revealed that instruments used in robotic surgery are very difficult to decontaminate. The complexity of the instruments prevents cleaning and sterilization mechanisms from reaching all areas of the instrument. The instruments are not designed to allow disassembly to clean the interior of lumens. As a result, protein contaminants remain on the instrument. It isn’t known to what extent post-operative infections might be due to contamination of robotic instruments, but the difference in cleanliness between robotic instruments and standard manual instruments is cause for concern. For standard instruments, cleaning effectiveness was 99.1%. For robotic instruments, cleaning effectiveness was 97.6%.

The study concludes that a new standard for cleaning robotic instruments is needed. This ignores the alternative that instruments could be redesigned to allow for more effective cleaning. With the anticipated growth in robotic surgery, it will become imperative that instruments be designed so that they can attain the same cleaning effectiveness as that of standard instruments.