Objective: Operating rooms (OR) generate a large portion of hospital revenue and waste. Consequently, improving efficiency and reducing waste is a high priority. Our objective was to quantify waste associated with opened but unused instruments from trays and to compare this with the cost of individually wrapping instruments.

Methods: Data was collected from June to November of 2013 in a 550-bed hospital in the United States. We recorded the instrument usage of two commonly-used trays for ten cases each. The time to decontaminate and reassemble instrument trays and peel packs was measured, and the cost to reprocess one instrument was calculated.

Results: Average utilization was 14% for the Plastic Soft Tissue Tray and 29% for the Major Laparotomy Tray. Of 98 instruments in the Plastics tray (n = 10), 0% was used in all cases observed and 59% were used in no observed cases. Of 110 instruments in the Major Tray (n = 10), 0% was used in all cases observed and 25% were used in no observed cases. Average cost to reprocess one instrument was $0.34-$0.47 in a tray and $0.81-$0.84 in a peel pack, or individually-wrapped instrument.

Conclusions: We estimate that the cost of peel packing an instrument is roughly two times the cost of tray packing. Therefore, it becomes more cost effective from a processing standpoint to package an instrument in a peel pack when there is less than a 42%-56% probability of use depending on instrument type. This study demonstrates an opportunity for reorganization of instrument delivery that could result in a significant cost-savings and waste reduction.