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Let’s Talk Shelf Life: Best Practices

The shelf life of facility-sterilized items is event-related and should be based 4 Key Factors. See below for AAMI's best-practice recommendations.

Per AAMI 79
11.1.3 Shelf life
The health care facility should establish policies and procedures for determining shelf life.


The shelf life of facility-sterilized items is event-related and should be based on:

  • The quality of the packaging material
  • The storage conditions
  • The methods and conditions of transport
  • The amount and conditions of handling


Inventory should be rotated on a “first in, first out” basis. Rationale: Shelf life is not simply a matter of sterility maintenance, but also a function of device degradation and inventory control.


The contamination of a sterilized item is event-related, and the probability of its occurrence increases over time and with increased handling. See also Joint Commission (2016) and AORN (2017b).


I cannot stress enough to check the IFU on the packaging material your organization has chosen. Did you know that many peel packs have an expiration date? Also, people always ask about windows in the storage area. Sunlight degrades many of the packaging materials; although sunlight makes us happier people, it makes blue wrap unhappy and unhealthy.


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Gabe Cox, RN, MSN, MBA, CNOR – Director of Educational Compliance

As the Patients Advocate, Gabe Cox serves to train and educate STERIS IMS’s Customers and sales teams on all aspects of Operating Room and Gastroenterology suites. She consults for healthcare facilities, group purchasing organizations, and other health related industries.  Gabe sits on AAMI committees relative to medical instrumentation.  Gabe is a member of SGNA, AORN, and APIC.  She is CNOR certified and holds her Master’s in Nursing and Business. She has 20 years of Operating Room and GI experience, national procurement contracting, group purchasing, implementation, and materials management.