Sterilization is required for all needles (filiform, plum-blossom, seven-star, subcutaneous, round-head subcutaneous), cups and other equipment used (storage trays, forceps, guide tubes for needles, cotton wool balls and sticks, etc.).
Disposable sterile acupuncture needles and guide tubes are strongly recommended in all instances. However, the use of disposable needles should not slacken the practitioner's vigilance in adopting aseptic techniques in other aspects of clinical practice. All disposable needles should be discarded immediately after use and placed in a special container.
Each sterile filiform needle should be used for puncturing once, and once only. Plum-blossom or seven-star needles may be used repeatedly on one and the same patient, but must be sterilized before being used for another patient, or else disposable plum-blossom heads should be used.
Sterilization procedures should conform to those described in the Appendix. The therapist is responsible for ensuring that these standards are maintained.
Immediately after use, reusable needles and other contaminated equipment should be immersed in an effective chemical disinfectant, then soaked in water, with or without detergent and, after careful cleaning, thoroughly rinsed in water before being packaged for resterilization.
The sterilized package should be stored in a safe and clean area, well ventilated and free from excessive humidity, to preclude any possibility of condensation and mould growth. The maximum safe storage time varies with the type of packaging. Needles should be placed in a test tube which should then be plugged with cotton wool, and clearly labelled with an expiry date not more than seven days after the date of sterilization. Improper storage conditions may, however, cause equipment to lose sterility long before the expiry date. The integrity of the package should be inspected before use. Sterile needles stored in needle trays should be resterilized at the end of the day because the trays may become contaminated during use in treatment.