Sterilizing pencils

IAHCSMM Discussion Forum: Instrumentation: Sterilizing pencils
By Karen Ranney on Wednesday, February 13, 2002 - 01:27 am: Edit

Does anyone have experience with or knowledge of sterilizing pencils?

By Kim L Owens on Monday, January 06, 2003 - 02:19 pm: Edit

We have been using pencils for many years for craniofacial surgery, we gas the pencils.

By Keith Wood (Keith) on Monday, January 06, 2003 - 11:08 pm: Edit

Kim; What is the advantage of gasing pencils. What do the scrub people us them for.

Keith Wood CRCST

By Anonymous on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - 03:53 pm: Edit

I am concerned about our ability to sterilize wooden pencils, or that the lead would become a contaminant as the pencil is used.
In this institution they are peelpacked and put through the ETO.

By Craig Nitschke on Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - 11:23 pm: Edit

Got this off AORN's website. Hope it helps.


An orthopedic surgeon at our facility wants to use an ordinary lead pencil to mark bone during a surgical procedure. Can wood be sterilized? Is it acceptable to sterilize a pencil for use during surgery?


Wood is a porous product that cannot be cleaned thoroughly, making sterilization a problem. The sterilant also may not penetrate the wood completely. There is conflicting information in the literature. A perioperative nursing textbook suggests that wood can be steam sterilized.4 One study, however, demonstrates that wood pencils should be sterilized only with dry heat at 160° C (320° F) for 18 hours because steam sterilization of wood fails 37% of the time.5

The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the recognized authority on sterilization, makes no recommendations for sterilizing wood products. Based on the lack of recommendations and conflicting information, sterilizing ordinary wood pencils is not advised. Products used during surgery must have validated processes that demonstrate the efficacy of the selected sterilization procedure. As with any product, the manufacturer's specific written instructions for sterilization must be followed to sterilize wood products. Wood products should not be reused because they cannot be cleaned. AORN recommends using a marking device specifically designed for use during surgery only after obtaining validated sterilization procedures for that item.

By jeff on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 03:06 am: Edit

wood can only be sterilized by gamma sterilizers.

By Anonymous on Thursday, August 28, 2003 - 09:12 pm: Edit

New to this,so I hope this comes out right. We have been sterilizing wood handle screwdrivers (synthes), in the steam for years.

By Anonymous on Saturday, August 30, 2003 - 03:40 am: Edit

very good point!! never thought about synthes screwdrivers.

By Anonymous on Sunday, August 31, 2003 - 05:34 am: Edit

I have been told that these "wooden" screwdriver handles are not exactly wooden (certainly not the same as an ordinary HB pencil!) but specially treated and validated for steam sterilization...somehow. Sorry I don't have all the details you should check with your Synthes rep. We are told by our manager that as soon as these wooden handles start to show signs of cracks etc....they are to be replaced as they can no longer be sterilized safely with cracks?
This is my experience. Hope it helps.

By nfields on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 07:26 am: Edit

Just a word of caution: It has been my experience that a rep is not always the best resource for technical data about processing. I make it a habit to contact the manufacturer directly and ask for their technical department. It usually takes several transfers before getting the individual with knowledge about sterilizing.

By Anonymous on Saturday, September 06, 2003 - 04:14 pm: Edit

I agree, but the rep should do the leg work and find the written documentation from the company for you!

By Terryjackson on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 02:00 pm: Edit

A simple solution that we have found. We utilize cheap mechanical pencils and stick them in the Eto unit. We run them on a regular cycle and aerate them for 12 hours. It works really well and no one is wondering about the wood.

Terry Jackson

By Anonymous on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 03:18 pm: Edit

Through our hospital patient safety initiative, we identified all non-medical devices used in patient care which had no validation for cleaning and sterilizing. Among them was the mechanical pencil. We do not believe it is safe to guess at what is valid and make ourselves medical device manufacturers and take on that liability. When all was explained to surgery and the physicians, they were able to find medical device alternatives and for several items, a device manufacturer was able to design and make what we needed. We've found it is important to remain vigilant as people will continue to innocently introduce non-medical devices into the environment in an effort to save money or solve a problem.

By Anonymous on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 07:41 am: Edit

You are way ahead of the curve! Bravo, you have the concept down!

By Kim L Owens on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 01:41 pm: Edit

A question is for anonymous september 10, 2003 entry. We use pencils for craniofacial surgery to mark bone. What have you found to substitute for mechanical pencils? I wrote last January, and since that time my facility no longer has access to ETO sterilization. I would appreciate your solution to the pencil dilemma.
Thanks, Kim L Owens

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