Sterile prep pads versus non-sterile prep pads

By: February 4th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reminding healthcare professionals the difference between sterile and non-sterile alcohol prep pads and the safety implications of using each.

The FDA released a press release on February 1 indicating that healthcare professionals should be vigilant in checking prep pad labels to decipher whether they are sterile or non-sterile. A non-sterile pad should not be used to prep patients before a procedure that needs certain sterility measures, for example, when a patient is having surgery, receiving a catheter, or has a depressed immune system.

Karen Weiss, MD, director of the Safe Use Initiative at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the press release that because patients in hospitals are more vulnerable to contracting infections, the FDA recommends sterile antiseptics, such as the sterile pads, be used in hospitals.

How does your facility educate healthcare professionals on the use of sterile or non-sterile prep pads?


By Shari Courser on February 9th, 2011 at 9:35 am

Tell my why they even have non sterile alcohol pads and why we need them. How do they sterilize them. Doesn’t the alcohol undergo changes during sterilization? I wasn’t even aware of the two types.

By Jean Zimmerman on February 9th, 2011 at 10:03 am

How can alcohol be non-sterile?

I agree- how do we have time to differentiate. WHy do they even allow non-sterile pads to be used in a healthcare setting. To answer Jean, alcohol can be overwhelmed given the right microbe setting and this recently happened with serveral bloodstream infections as a result. The FDA should not continue to allow nonsterile ones to be produced and used but they are despite this latest outbreak.

I have seen in some physician’s offices the use of non-sterile cotton balls (all in a container) and a bottle of alcohol (used on multiple patient’s) instead of using “expensive” individual sterile alcohol prep pads. They really don’t see anything wrong with the practice. Needless to say, I don’t go to them anymore.


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