Reducing cost and improving operating room efficiency: examination of surgical instrument processing

Adam R. Dyas, Kelly M. Lovell, Courtney J. Balentine, Thomas N. Wang, John R. Porterfield, Herbert Chen, Brenessa M. Lindeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Operating room efficiency can be compromised because of surgical instrument processing delays. We observed that many instruments in a standardized tray were not routinely used during thyroid and parathyroid surgery at our institution. Our objective was to create a streamlined instrument tray to optimize operative efficiency and cost. Materials and methods: Head and neck surgical instrument trays were evaluated by operating room team leaders. Instruments were identified as either necessary or unnecessary based on use during thyroidectomies and parathyroidectomies. The operating room preparation time, tray weights, number of trays, and number of instruments were recorded for the original and new surgical trays. Cost savings were calculated using estimated reprocessing cost of $0.51 per instrument. Results: Three of 13 head and neck trays were converted to thyroidectomy and parathyroidectomy trays. The starting head and neck surgical set was reduced from two trays with 98 total instruments to one tray with 36 instruments. Tray weight decreased from 27 pounds to 10 pounds. Tray preparation time decreased from 8 min to 3 min. The new tray saved $31.62 ($49.98 to $18.36) per operation in reprocessing costs. Projected annual savings with hospitalwide implementation is over $28,000.00 for instrument processing alone. Unmeasured hospital savings include decreased instrument wear and replacement frequency, quicker operating room setup, and decreased decontamination costs. Conclusions: Optimizing surgical trays can reduce cost, physical strain, preparation time, decontamination time, and processing times, and streamlining trays is an effective strategy for hospitals to reduce costs and increase operating room efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-19
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost saving
  • Instrument reprocessing
  • Operating room efficiency
  • Parathyroidectomy
  • Surgical tray
  • Thyroidectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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