Research Backs Benefits of Single-Use Medical Packaging

An analysis of peer-reviewed studies finds that single-use, sterile, prepackaged surgical instruments support patient health, profitability, and sustainability goals.

Kassandra Kania, Freelance Writer

May 4, 2023

4 Min Read
Dutko / iStock via Getty Images

Surgical retractors play a crucial role in spinal surgeries. However, traditional reusable instruments present various challenges, including the risk of surgical site infections (SSIs) and environmental concerns associated with sterilization.

Adopting single-use retractors in spinal surgeries can address many of the issues related to reusable retractors, according to an analysis of peer-reviewed published studies released by SURE Retractors Inc. The report, The Multifaceted Benefits of Single-Use, Sterile, Prepackaged Surgical Retractors in Spinal Surgeries, demonstrates that these retractors reduce SSIs, cut costs and prep time, and decrease environmental impacts.


Reducing infections with single-use medical packaging.

According to the studies cited in SURE Retractors’ report, one of the primary benefits of single-use, sterile, prepackaged (SSP) retractors is the reduction of SSIs in spinal surgeries. One study found that the use of disposable instruments in spinal surgeries reduced the risk of SSIs by 44%1, while another study determined that they reduced the risk of infection by 61%2 compared to reusable instruments. A third study cited a decrease in SSIs from 8.5% with reusable instruments to 1.7%3 with single-use instruments.

Additionally, the reduction of SSIs due to single-use instruments has a positive effect on patient outcomes: Studies report that they reduce median hospital stays after spine surgery by nearly 10%3, reduce the occurrence of post-operative complications by 42%2, and reduce the rate of subsequent revision surgeries by 69%4.


Instruments in single-use medical packaging drive savings.

Furthermore, switching to single-use instruments plays a role in relieving the financial burden associated with SSIs. According to a study in the American Journal of Infection Control, the cost of SSIs in spinal surgeries can range from $14,500 to $37,500 per case5. By switching to SSP instruments, ambulatory centers can save thousands of dollars per surgery and increase profitability. In fact, one study claims that single-use instruments could save up to an average of $2,245 a year per patient due to the reduced rate of SSIs2. This amounts to an estimated savings of $1.1 billion annually in the US due to reduced SSIs associated with single-use instruments1.

Statistics also support savings in staff and prep times using SSP instruments. According to one study, single-use instruments reduce the amount of time required for instrument counting and verification by 29%6, while another found that instrument reprocessing times were slashed by 22%5.

Furthermore, the report credits single-use retractors with improved surgical efficiency and volume in spinal surgeries with one study reporting a 10%3 reduction in operative times and another reporting a 12%6 increase in the number of surgeries that could be scheduled per day.


Environmental stewardship of single-use medical packaging for instruments.

The report concludes by citing various statistics that address how SSP instruments provide increasingly sought-after environmental benefits. When compared to the single-surgery lifecycle impact of sterilizing and preparing reusable instruments, SSP instruments reduce total energy use by 36%7, reduce water use by 32%8, and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 27%8.



  1. Yi, S., et al. (2019). Single-use instrumentation in posterior spinal fusion for degenerative lumbar spine disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Spine Journal, 19(11), 1855-1864.

  2.  Zhang, Y., et al. (2019). Single-use versus reusable instruments in spine surgery: a retrospective cohort study. Spine, 44(18), 1303-1309.

  3. Fessler, R.G., et al. (2017). A randomized controlled trial comparing the use of single-use versus reusable instruments in spinal fusion surgery. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 475(11), 2736-2744.

  4. Guo, J., et al (2019). The impact of single-use instruments on surgical efficiency, cost, and infection rates in spinal surgery: a comparative study. Journal of Spine Surgery, 5(4), 455-462.

  5. Macario, A., et al. (2012). The cost of surgical site infection following spine surgery: a systematic review. American Journal of Infection Control, 40(6), 510-513.

  6. Jaber, S., et al. (2012). Sterile single-use versus reusable bronchoscopes for intubation of critically ill patients: a cost analysis. Anesthesiology, 116(6), 1298-1305.

  7. Thiel, C.L., et al. (2015). Environmental impacts of surgical procedures: life cycle assessment of hysterectomy in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(3), 1779-1786.

  8. Vozikis, A., et al. (2016). Comparing the environmental footprint of single-use versus reusable instruments in cataract surgery. Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, 42(8), 1155-1163.


About the Author(s)

Kassandra Kania

Freelance Writer

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC. She has written extensively about healthcare packaging for a variety of publications.

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