Read the fine print. It’s no small matter with product labels.

College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta Infection Prevention and Control, Messenger Leave a Comment

Important instructions can sometimes ‘hide’ in the small print of product labeling:

Discard unused portion 3 days after initial use.
– Xylocaine (2% lidocaine hydrochloride)

No antimicrobial agent or other substance has been added. Single use container.
– 0.9% sodium chloride irrigation

What’s not small are the consequences of improper use, which can put your patients’ safety at risk — and make you liable. So always read the fine print and follow these Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) best practices for single and multi-dose products:

Single-dose/single-use Products

(e.g., medications, irrigation solutions, sterile lubricants)

Single-dose/single-use products lower the risk of microbial contamination. For these products, it is important to use only in a single patient for a single case/procedure/injection:

  • Never save or re-use, even on the same patient, as these products typically lack antimicrobial preservatives.
  • Select the smallest volumes necessary for your needs to limit waste/costs. Avoid vials containing more product than is necessary for a single patient/procedure.
  • Discard an opened product immediately after initial use.
  • Discard unopened products as per the manufacturer’s expiry date.
  • If a vial is not sterile or you are not sure, discard it.


Multi-dose vials

(e.g., xylocaine/lidocaine)

Although IPC prefers single-dose/single-use vials and products, multi-dose vials are acceptable if you follow these safe injection practices:

  • Keep vial clean. Prevent inadvertent contamination through direct or indirect contact with surfaces or equipment.
  • Date all products after opening.
  • Be aware of both the ‘expiry’ date and the ‘beyond-use’ date, and discard products based on these dates.
    • The manufacturer prints an expiry date on the vial. You should never use a product past the expiry date (opened or unopened).
    • The beyond-use date is the time frame an open bottle will stay good (e.g., 3 days, 28 days). It is the user’s responsibility to date the vial after opening and to discard the rest after the specified time frame (or after the expiry date, whichever comes first).
  • If there is no specified expiry or beyond-use date, discard products 28 days after opening.
  • If a vial is not sterile or you are not sure, discard it.

For more information contact the College’s IPAC Program Coordinator at or 780-969-5004.

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2011. Website FAQs.

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