How to Clean Infusion Pumps for Patient Safety


Thoroughly cleaning infusion pumps is essential for patient safety. Classified as "non-critical equipment" by the Centers for Disease Control, infusion pumps only contact intact skin. Nevertheless, skin flora and other bacteria present on smart pumps, syringe pumps, and other subcutaneous infusion systems can contribute to an unsafe patient environment.

Effective disinfection of IV pumps reduces the risk of healthcare-related infections. Likewise, preventive maintenance compliance requires appropriate cleaning and reprocessing of all types of infusion pumps. Following OEM protocols using recommended cleaning products helps protect delicate device components. Damage to these components can compromise the functionality of these devices that many patients rely on for precise, controlled delivery of life-saving medicines, resulting in adverse events.

An estimated 90% of hospitalized patients receive medication administration via infusion therapy, either through stationary or ambulatory infusion pumps. For nurses already managing numerous patient care tasks, cleaning protocols can add to fatigue that may interfere with device programming, leading to medication errors and miscalculated flow rates or infusion rates. Therefore, cleaning and disinfecting infusion equipment during care delivery and in-between patients should fit seamlessly into clinician workflows.

The CDC recommends that organizations develop a multilevel strategy to improve cleaning and disinfecting procedures for non-critical medical equipment, including infusion pumps. As part of an overall infusion device management system, standardizing cleaning and reprocessing procedures can preserve functionality, support existing safety features, reduce the risk of pathogen transmission, and keep infusion pumps available for the patients who need them.

The following suggestions can help streamline that process for the clinical team while promoting safe, effective cleaning and disinfection standards.

Take a collaborative approach when creating cleaning strategies for medical devices

Infection control should take the highest priority when determining hospital-specific cleaning standards. But protecting the functionality of the equipment should also be part of the discussion. And nurses and other clinicians must contribute to conversations about integrating protocols into workflows.

Involving members from the infection control committee and the biomedical and clinical departments can help solve issues before the team encounters them on the floor.

Clearly designate responsibility for cleaning and reprocessing tasks

Use strategy sessions to outline responsibility between nurses, aides, equipment management, and environmental services.

Include specifics, such as:

  • Equipment name
  • Cleaning times (before deployment, when visibly soiled, after use, following discharge)
  • Group responsible for each time slot
  • Cleaning method according to the pump’s parameters
  • Method instructions (OEM manual, laminated printout)
  • Type of disinfectant
  • Location of supplies

Create a simple written list or graphic organizer to post in main areas where cleaning takes place. Using cleaning checklists supports staff in proper cleaning and provides useful documentation for process improvement and compliance review.

Best practices for cleaning infusion pumps

Each healthcare manufacturer provides device-specific cleaning and disinfection instructions. Failure to follow these instructions or using other than the recommended cleaning wipes and controlled amounts of disinfecting solutions can create damage and result in safety issues due to water ingress, corrosion, or interference between moving parts. Keeping the right products in stock prevents the use of inferior or overly aggressive products that may not thoroughly disinfect the device or may cause preventable damage.

Don't forget to follow the product instructions for cleaning/disinfecting solutions as well. These include guidelines about how long the product should remain on the device and how to wipe it away after disinfection.

To further support patient safety, compliment brand instructions with these suggestions.

Cleaning before patient use

Perform a visual inspection before plugging in the device or attaching external components. This includes the mount pole and wheels. Clean any visible debris with an approved cleaning wipe. If organic material or excessive debris is found on the device, follow OEM instructions for a complete cleaning, or swap out the machine for an acceptable IV pump.

Cleaning during use

Noticeable organic debris, blood, fluid, or any small volumes of other substances should be removed from the infusion pump as soon as possible. The device may need to be unplugged. Use pre-impregnated disinfecting wipes when possible. Avoid reconnecting to the power source until the IV pump is completely dry.

Cleaning after use

Ideally, post-use cleaning should take place in a designated cleaning area. Include instructions and responsibility for moving the device as well as the cleaning protocol in the outlines posted at cleaning stations.

Tips for better device cleaning:

  • Remove the pump from the pole assembly
  • Keep the device horizontal during cleaning
  • Use a dedicated, soft-bristle brush to clean hard-to-reach areas
  • Avoid getting the solution in the device vents or connectors
  • Allow the pump to dry before storing, making sure not to leave any amount of fluid
  • Perform a visual inspection before and after cleaning

Remember to check the OEM manual for specific instructions before incorporating additional protocol steps.

Staff training, auditing, and monitoring

Retraining on cleaning procedures should occur at each level of responsibility at least once annually. It's a good idea to include training in the onboarding process for new hires.

Including auditing and monitoring in the cleaning and reprocessing strategy can identify gaps in procedures, team education, and workflow design. Visual inspection before device use, regular review of documentation such as cleaning checklists, and routine evaluation in the field are vital to maintaining compliance and keeping patients safe during hospital care.

Designing for Safer Cleaning

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has developed guidance for infusion pump design intended to enlist OEMs in the effort to reduce healthcare-related infections. The guidelines include design and user interface recommendations that make infusion pumps easier to clean and minimize other patient safety concerns such as tissue irritation from residual chemical cleaners.

SEE ALSO: The FDA’s Infusion Pump Improvement Initiative

High-quality replacement parts also incorporate cleaning concerns into product design. Selecting durable resins, water ingress testing, and other practices allow replacement parts to resist cleaning fluid leakage that leads to damage associated with infusion device failure. When discussing purchasing and pricing of new smart infusion pumps or replacement parts, talk to OEM vendors and 3rd-party manufacturers about how their products stand up to cleaning and reprocessing.

Don't underestimate the benefits of maximizing risk reduction strategies in this area. Taking steps to ensure proper cleaning, from acquisition through protocol development and workflow integration, is necessary to ensure that healthcare patients receive the safest, most effective care.

Elite Biomedical Solutions is a proud USA manufacturer of OEM level quality infusion pump replacement parts. Read our related post "The Nuts and Bolts of Quality Control," to learn more about how we incorporate patient safety into our design and manufacturing processes.

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